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US appeals court upholds gun laws enacted after Sandy Hook tragedy

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NEW YORK — A federal appeals court has upheld most of the key provisions of New York and Connecticut laws banning possession of semi-automatic assault weapons and large-capacity magazines.

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 laws were passed after the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in which 20 first-graders and six educators were killed.

“I am gratified,” said Governor Dan Malloy.  “I think the people of Connecticut should be gratified.  I think the law has made us safer in this state and quite frankly, if other states would adopt similar legislation, would all be safer in every state.”

The three-judge panel noted that during the Newtown shooting 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.

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen calls the ruling “deeply gratifying.”

“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,” he said in a statement.

“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,” he said in a statement.

The laws were opposed by 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 the claim by gun rights groups 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.”

The New York State Rifle and Pistol Association plans to appeal the decision. Tom King, the group’s president, said Monday’s decision was not a surprise. He predicts the U.S. Supreme Court may decide to look at the decision along with three recent rulings on state gun control laws in five other cases.

There was a small victory for gun rights advocates, the court also finding Connecticut’s ban on the non semi-automatic Remington 7615 is unconstitutional and a seven-round load limit in New York cannot be imposed even as it upheld other bans on magazines.