* Ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines upheld too
* Gun lobby group NRA weighing options for appeal
(Adds Washington mayor in 15th paragraph)
By Jeremy Pelofsky
WASHINGTON, Oct 4 A ban on semi-automatic
rifles and large-capacity ammunition magazines in the capital
city got a boost on Tuesday from a U.S. appeals court that
upheld the prohibition as constitutional, a setback for gun
The ruling upheld a lower court decision that found the ban
and regulations by the city of Washington did not violate the
U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment that permits individuals
to possess firearms.
The U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia Circuit
ruled 2-1 in favor of the city's ban, which is one of the
toughest in the United States and also includes a prohibition
on semi-automatic pistols and shotguns.
"The District has carried its burden of showing a
substantial relationship between the prohibition of both
semi-automatic rifles and magazines holding more than ten
rounds and the objectives of protecting police officers and
controlling crime," said the majority opinion.
It was written by Judge Douglas Ginsburg and he was joined
by Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson. Judge Brett Kavanaugh
dissented, saying the ban was unconstitutional. All three were
appointed by Republican presidents.
The two judges who upheld the ban also backed some
registration requirements under D.C. law, but sent some back to
the district court for further proceedings.
The challenge to the assault weapons ban came from Dick
Heller -- the lead plaintiff who successfully challenged the
city's law prohibiting handguns that was ultimately ruled
unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
The high court in 2008 issued a landmark ruling that the
constitutional right to keep and bear arms applies to
individuals and allows them to use guns for lawful purposes
such as self-defense in the home.
REGISTRATIONS REJECTED BY POLICE
In this latest case, Heller and two others tried to
register semi-automatic rifles but were rejected by Washington
police because the rifles were deemed to be assault weapons.
Heller also tried to register a pistol but that too was
rejected because it had a magazine that held 15 rounds.
Heller's legal team had argued that semi-automatic rifles
are often used for home protection and sport. They also
contended that the high-capacity magazines were needed because
otherwise they would have to pause to reload in a stressful
The city countered that the weapons were not protected by
the Second Amendment of the Constitution. The latest FBI crime
statistics showed that 99 of the 131 murders in Washington in
2010 were a result of firearms and of the approximately 3,900
robberies last year, 40 percent were with firearms.
"As the District points out, the plaintiffs present hardly
any evidence that semi-automatic rifles and magazines holding
more than ten rounds are well-suited to or preferred for the
purpose of self-defense or sport," the majority opinion said.
Heller also challenged several registration regulations for
handguns, including those that allowed a person to register
only one pistol each month, and required that the owner submit
the weapon for ballistics identification, attend firearms
training and undergo a background check every six years.
The appeals court sent some of those, including ballistics
identification, five hours of training and registration limited
to one pistol every 30 days, back to the lower court for
"It upholds our government's authority to pass reasonable
gun laws, and it supports the basic registration requirements
as well as the bans on assault weapons and large magazines --
each of which are key components of the District's battle
against violent crime," Washington Mayor Vincent Gray said.
A spokesman for the National Rifle Association, the
powerful lobby group that has backed the legal challenge, said
they are considering their options for appeal which could
include asking the full appeals court to review the case or
going to the Supreme Court.
"When it comes to self-defense, semi-automatic firearms of
all types are an increasingly popular choice for most
Americans, and the court itself admitted that semi-automatics
are in common use, with millions of these types of guns sold in
recent years," said Andrew Arulanandam, an NRA spokesman.
(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)