April 30, 2019
A number of gun-rights activists were ecstatic when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in Heller v. District of Columbia, in which the Court invalidated a District of Columbia law that outlawed possession of handguns. I suspect that many thought that the decision would open the door to a broad expansion of the types of firearms that they would be able to possess.
They may have jumped the gun.
The latest court to render an opinion on the matter is a three-judge panel of the First Circuit Court of Appeals (which included retired Supreme Court Justice David Souter), which upheld a lower court’s ruling tossing a lawsuit brought by gun owners in Massachusetts challenging the Commonwealth’s law prohibiting the sale, transfer and possession of certain semi-automatic weapons and certain types of magazines.
After reviewing both Heller and its progeny (and pointing out both that the holding in Heller was narrow and that the Court specifically took pains to point out that the Second Amendment does not confer an “unlimited” right to possess firearms), the court ruled that “even if the [Massachusetts law] implicates the core of the Second Amendment right, it (at most) minimally burdens that right. Consequently, we are obliged to cede some degree of deference to the decision of the Massachusetts legislature about how best to regulate the possession and use of
the proscribed weapons. In this instance, that decision rests on a web of compelling governmental interests, and the fit between those interests and the restrictions imposed by the Act is both close and reasonable.”
The gun owners could appeal to the Supreme Court, but I’m not convinced that they’ll like what they hear.