A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging Massachusetts' ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, saying in a ruling released Friday that the weapons fall beyond the reach of the Second Amendment.
U.S. District Judge William Young said assault weapons are military firearms and aren't protected by the constitutional right to "bear arms." Regulation of the weapons is a matter of policy, not for the courts, he said.
"Other states are equally free to leave them unregulated and available to their law-abiding citizens," Young said. "These policy matters are simply not of constitutional moment. Americans are not afraid of bumptious, raucous and robust debate about these matters. We call it democracy."
Democratic state Attorney General Maura Healey said the ruling "vindicates the right of the people of Massachusetts to protect themselves from these weapons of war."
"Strong gun laws save lives, and we will not be intimidated by the gun lobby in our efforts to end the sale of assault weapons and protect our communities and schools," she said in a statement. "Families across the country should take heart in this victory," she said.
Young also upheld Healey's 2016 enforcement notice to gun sellers and manufacturers clarifying what constitutes a "copy" or "duplicate" weapon under the 1998 assault weapon ban, including copies of the Colt AR-15 and the Kalashnikov AK-47.
Healey said at the time that gun manufacturers were circumventing the ban by selling copycat versions of the weapons they claimed complied with the law.
The Massachusetts assault weapons ban mirrors the federal ban that expired in 2004. It bans the sale of specific and name-brand weapons and explicitly bans copies or duplicates of those weapons.
The lawsuit was filed last year by the Gun Owners' Action League of Massachusetts and other groups who said the law infringed on their rights under the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Their lawsuit said the ban prevents law-abiding residents from buying and possessing some of the most popular rifles in the country.
But Young said the "AR-15's present day popularity is not constitutionally material."
The executive director of the Gun Owners' Action League of Massachusetts said he hasn't seen the ruling and couldn't immediately comment.