Post-Newtown gun laws pass federal court, not quite unscathed

A federal court left most, but not all, of the gun control laws passed by New York and Connecticut after shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School intact, and gun advocates plan to appeal the decision.

Susan Walsh/AP/File
Neil Heslin, the father of Jesse, a six-year-old boy who was killed in the Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, Conn., holds a picture of them together as he wipes his eye while testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington, before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013, Feb. 27, 2013. The bill was defeated in the Senate.

Gun control laws in New York and Connecticut have mostly survived the first round of opposition from gun rights advocates in court, although more will come.

The laws resulted from national shock after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012. The killing of 20 first-graders and six teachers and staff in Newtown, Conn., did not go unnoticed by the panel of federal judges, although the gun rights groups and others who brought the suit suggested that mass killings are unusual events not likely to be impacted by laws.

“That may be so," the court wrote, according to the Associated Press. "But gun-control legislation 'need not strike at all evils at the same time' to be constitutional.”

The court found parts of both state’s laws unconstitutional. The court struck down a Connecticut ban on the Remington 7615, which is used by hunters and police for a fast follow-up shot but is not semi-automatic. The court also ruled against a seven-round load limit in New York.

The court agreed with the bans on large-capacity magazines and assault weapons, however, and said that in practice, criminals often use such weapons to attack police officers.

“These weapons are disproportionately used in crime, and particularly in criminal mass shootings,” Circuit Judge José Cabranes wrote in a ruling, according to the Associated Press. “They are also disproportionately used to kill law enforcement officers.”

The gun laws will receive a second round of judicial scrutiny, Tom King, president of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, told the AP. He said his organization will appeal the ruling to the United States Supreme Court in the hope that they will hear the case alongside several states’ other gun control laws.

“It wasn't a surprise. We expected it," Mr. King told the AP.

The attorneys general from both states and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) of New York approved the ruling, saying it shows that state legislatures can help solve the public’s problems decisively.

“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,” said Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen, according to the AP.

The report includes material from the Associated Press.

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