A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled late last month that firearms capable of automatic fire, or machine guns, are not protected under the Second Amendment. The case in question was a challenge by Texas resident Jay Hollis, who petitioned the ATF for permission to build a select-fire M-16 from commonplace AR-15 parts. The ATF initially granted the request, but later denied it since the firearm would violate a 1986 federal law that bans the private possession of machine guns. Judges Carolyn Dineen King, Leslie Southwick and Catharina Haynes upheld that law on June 30, ruling that machine guns were not a right guaranteed by the Second Amendment.
In their opinion, the judges referred to the landmark decision in the 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller. Following the previous ruling, the judges found that automatic firearms were both “dangerous” and “unusual,” and could not be protected under the Second Amendment since they were not in common use. The judges noted that there are well over eight million AR-15 and AK-style semi-automatic rifles in the United States, but only 175,977 pre-1986 automatic firearms in civilian hands.
“The Second Amendment does not create a right to possess a weapon solely because a weapon may be used in or is useful for militia or military service,” stated the appeals court.
The judges said if every weapon used by the military was protected by the Second Amendment, there was little stopping private citizens from purchasing hand grenades—an idea that the Supreme Court already refuted. Furthermore, the 5th Circuit Court opposed the reasoning that select-fire guns are necessary to ward off tyranny.
“Hollis next argues that the Second Amendment is what protects ‘the Right of the People to alter or abolish’ a government that becomes destructive of the people’s rights,” Southwick stated in her opinion. “Hollis seeks equality between the people and the Government so that those seeking to abolish the government will have a fair chance. But self-defense, not revolution, ‘is the central component of the Second Amendment.”
The judges concluded that the Second Amendment was meant to protect the individual right to protect “hearth and home,” rather than guaranteeing the right to own specific firearms.
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