- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 7, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO (UPI) A federal appeals court ruling upholding California's ban on assault rifles was being portrayed yesterday as a landmark in the constitutional debate over the right to bear arms.
In a 72-page ruling issued Thursday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the Second Amendment only guarantees the rights of states to organize a militia and doesn't say anything about citizens being allowed to own semiautomatic weapons or any other firearms.
"With the federal assault weapons ban scheduled to sunset next Congress, the California law stands as one example of how to more effectively restrict these weapons of war," said Matt Nosanchuk, legislative counsel for the Violence Policy Center.
The 9th Circuit's unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel was at odds with a 5th Circuit ruling known as the Emerson decision upholding an individual's right to possess a weapon, stating that the Second Amendment pertained to the organization of an organized, state-sponsored militia, and not "an 'unregulated' mob of armed individuals."
"Individual rights advocates have waved the Emerson decision like a battle flag," Mr. Nosanchuk said in a statement. "All they have done is awaken a sleeping giant of clear legal thinking and sound historical analysis that finds that the Second Amendment does not guarantee an individual right to own a gun."
The court agreed, however, that police officers that protect public safety were allowed to own firearms.
California Attorney General Bill Lockyer said the state had no desire to take away the rights of people to hunt or to protect themselves and their homes; however the state was intent on keeping high-powered weapons off the streets.
"While I respect the rights of Californians to pursue hunting and sports-shooting, and of law-abiding citizens to protect their homes and businesses, there is no need for these military-style weapons to be on the streets of our state," Mr. Lockyer said.
There was no immediate word as to whether the Justice Department would appeal the ruling or seek a full court review; meanwhile some gun-owners groups concluded the ruling was flawed.
"I don't think the court gets it at all," Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, told the Los Angeles Times.

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