U.S. appeals court upholds core of N.Y., Connecticut gun laws

By Nate Raymond and Barbara Goldberg
New Haven police officer Maneet Colon catalogues a Bushmaster semi-automatic assault rifle that is turned in during a gun buyback event at the New Haven Police Academy in New Haven, Connecticut, December 22, 2012. REUTERS/ Michelle McLoughlin

By Nate Raymond and Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal appeals court on Monday upheld parts of New York and Connecticut gun control laws banning semiautomatic assault rifles and large-capacity magazines, ruling the measures passed after a 2012 school massacre did not violate the Constitution.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York upheld the bans on semiautomatic weapons and large-capacity magazines, but struck down a New York provision barring gun owners from loading more than seven bullets in a clip and a Connecticut prohibition on the non-semiautomatic Remington 7615.

New York and Connecticut's gun control measures, among the strictest in the nation, were signed into law after a gunman killed 26 children and staff at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012.

The Newtown shooting revived a national debate on gun control. At the time, President Barack Obama launched an aggressive gun control push but his efforts largely failed in Congress.

The appeals court, in upholding the provisions, ruled against coalitions that included firearms dealers, sports shooters and gun owners who claimed the mandates infringed on their constitutional right to possess firearms.

"The core prohibitions by New York and Connecticut of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines do not violate the Second Amendment," ruled the court in a decision written by Circuit Judge Jose Cabranes.

Legal experts said the ruling would have more of a symbolic than practical effect.

"All this says is that if you pass such a law, it will be constitutional," said James Jacobs, who teaches at New York University School of Law.

"The states with the strongest gun control politics have already banned them. I don't see other states running to do it because it's constitutional," Jacobs said.

Timothy Lytton, who teaches at Georgia State University College of Law and authored "Suing the Gun Industry," said it was doubtful the ruling alone would sway Congress or individual states.

"Court opinions like this are not likely to move legislatures," Lytton said.

"The federal government has been at a stalemate over gun control legislation for well over a decade. If Sandy Hook could not move Congress to action, nothing is likely to," he added.

(Editing by Doina Chiacu and David Alexander)