US appeals court upholds gun laws after Newtown massacre

NEW YORK (AP) – Gun control laws passed in New York and Connecticut to ban possession of semi-automatic weapons and large-capacity magazines after the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School were mostly upheld Monday by a federal appeals court decision that a gun group vowed to appeal.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan found core parts of the laws did not violate the Second Amendment because there was a substantial relationship between bans on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines and the “important – indeed, compelling – state interest in controlling crime.”

“When used, these weapons tend to result in more numerous wounds, more serious wounds, and more victims. These weapons are disproportionately used in crime, and particularly in criminal mass shootings,” according to the ruling written by Circuit Judge Jose A. Cabranes. “They are also disproportionately used to kill law enforcement officers.”

The three-judge panel noted that the Newtown, Connecticut, shooting in December 2012 occurred when 154 rounds were fired in less than five minutes, killing 20 first-graders and six educators and renewing a nationwide discussion on the role of guns in America and how to diminish the threat of large-scale shootings.

But the court found Connecticut’s ban on a non-semi-automatic Remington 7615 unconstitutional. And it said a seven-round load limit in New York could not be imposed even as it upheld other bans on magazines.

“Like assault weapons, large-capacity magazines result in ‘more shots fired, persons wounded, and wounds per victim than do other gun attacks,'” the court said.

Tom King, president of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association and a lead plaintiff, said his group – the New York affiliate of the National Rifle Association – will appeal to the Supreme Court, which could take up the case with recent rulings on state gun control laws.

“It wasn’t a surprise. We expected it,” he said.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen praised the ruling.

“At a time when many Americans have abandoned hope of government’s ability to address gun violence in our schools and on our streets, Connecticut’s laws – and today’s decision – demonstrate that willing states can enact meaningful reform to improve public safety without violating the Second Amendment,” Jepsen said in a statement.

The plaintiffs were groups supporting gun rights, pistol permit holders and gun sellers.

The appeals court addressed several gun rights groups’ arguments, including that mass shootings are rare events that would be minimally affected by gun control laws.

“That may be so,” the 2nd Circuit said. “But gun-control legislation ‘need not strike at all evils at the same time’ to be constitutional.”

The appeals court said gun rights groups’ claims that the ban on assault weapons will primarily disarm law-abiding citizens was “speculative at best, and certainly not strong enough to overcome the substantial deference we owe to predictive judgments of the legislature on matters of public safety.”

Associated Press writer Michael Virtanen in Albany contributed to this story.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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