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Gun groups appeal Delaware ‘assault weapons’ ban ruling

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(The Center Square) — Gun rights groups are asking a federal appeals court to overturn a lower court ruling upholding Delaware’s “assault weapons” ban and other firearm restrictions.

In April, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Andrews rejected a request by the Delaware Sportsmen’s Association and other groups who sued the state for a preliminary injunction blocking the new regulations from being enforced as he considers the lawsuit.

But the groups have filed an appeal to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, urging the three-judge panel to overturn Andrews’ ruling that upheld Delaware’s ban on so-called “assault weapons” and “large capacity” magazines.

“The district court wrongly held that Delaware’s bans, which affect some of the most popular firearms and magazines in the country, could be justified by reference to a pattern of historical regulation targeting a variety of arms, from ‘slung shots’ to machine guns,” lawyers for the group wrote in the 64-page brief.

“But the state has not put forward, and the district court did not cite, a single law that banned possession or carriage of an arm that was in common use at the time like the Delaware bans do.”

Last year, Gov. John Carney signed a package of gun control measures that included a ban on the sale of so-called assault-style weapons, an increase in the age to purchase firearms from 18 to 21, strengthened background checks and limits on large-capacity magazines. It also banned the use of devices that convert handguns into fully automatic weapons.

The bills were pushed through the Democratic-controlled Legislature in the wake of several mass shootings, including the massacre of 21 at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

The sportsman association, a state-level affiliate of the National Rifle Association, filed the lawsuit shortly after Carney signed the bills arguing they violate Second Amendment rights and Delaware’s Constitution, which guarantees a right to own and carry firearms.

The plaintiffs argued the new law “criminalized” the purchase and ownership of common firearms used by labeling them as “deadly weapons” and making it a felony “for law-abiding citizens to exercise their fundamental right to keep and bear such arms.”

The lawsuit is one of hundreds of legal challenges across the country filed in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the N.Y. State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen’s case, which struck down a New York law requiring applicants to show “proper cause” to get a permit to carry a firearm.

The ruling has prompted reviews of firearm licensing laws in Delaware and other Democrat-led states to tighten their gun laws to further restrict firearm carrying, spurring other legal challenges from Second Amendment groups.

“No matter what the State of Delaware thinks, the guns and magazines it banned are protected by the Second Amendment and thus cannot be prohibited,” Richard Thomson, a spokesman for the Firearms Policy Coalition, said in a statement. “We look forward to the Third Circuit getting right what the district court got wrong when it declined to preliminarily enjoin Delaware’s bans.”

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