In a landmark victory for gun rights on Tuesday, the United States Department of Justice admitted that non-automatic firearms up to .50-caliber, including the popular AR-15 rifle, are not weapons of war.
This admission, made one day after President Donald Trump nominated pro-gun rights judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, could help Second Amendment advocates block Democrats’ efforts to ban so-called “assault rifles.”
The lawsuit arose from a 2013 move by the State Department to use international laws to block the Second Amendment Foundation from distributing information on how to assemble guns made from parts created by a 3-D printer. The SAF sued the State Department, claiming that prior restraint of free speech violated the First Amendment.
“Not only is this a First Amendment victory for free speech, it is also a devastating blow to the gun prohibition lobby,” SAF Founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb said in a press release.
The financial part of the settlement awarded the SAF “significant” attorney’s fees, plus repayment of $10,000 in registration dues that the SAF had been forced to pay to the State Department.
However, the most important implication of the settlement is that the U.S. government admitted, for the first time, that many popular semiautomatic rifles are not weapons of war.
“For years, anti-gunners have contended that modern semi-automatic sport-utility rifles are so-called ‘weapons of war,’ and with this settlement, the government has acknowledged they are nothing of the sort,” Gottlieb said in the SAF’s statement.
This admission will make it easier for gun rights groups to argue in court that guns such as the AR-15 are civilian guns, and thus their ownership is protected by the Second Amendment.
The settlement was announced one day after President Trump nominated Appeals Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh dissented in Heller v. D.C. (2011), writing that semiautomatic rifles should be protected under the Second Amendment.
The Supreme Court declined to hear that case on appeal, but today’s settlement makes it more likely that the Supreme Court will hear an appeal and overrule Heller v. D.C. (2011), strengthening our Second Amendment rights.