Judge William G. Young Mocks the Late Justice Scalia While Upholding Gun Ban

Judge William G. Young
Judge William G. Young

Fairfax, VA – -(Ammoland.com)- Gun owners have seen many outrageous instances of courts dismissing the importance, if not the very existence, of the individual right to keep and bear arms.

But Judge William G. Young of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts still managed to distinguish himself among this dubious cohort with an opinion published on April 5, 2018. Not only the does Young’s opinion uphold an expansive ban on semiautomatic firearms and magazines by misreading Supreme Court precedent, it goes out of its way to mock the legacy and stalwart Second Amendment jurisprudence of the late, great Justice Antonin Scalia. The case is Workman v. Healy.

Massachusetts enacted a state law banning a variety of semiautomatic firearms and magazines in 1998. That law paralleled a federal ban on so-called “assault weapons” and “large capacity magazines” in effect from 1994 to 2004, explicating adopting the federal definition of “semiautomatic assault weapon.” The Massachusetts law accordingly banned certain firearms by name, others as “copies and duplicates” of the guns banned by name, and still others by describing a “features test” that applied to additional detachable magazine fed semiautomatic firearms.

Throughout the federal ban, manufacturers made and retailers sold magazine fed semiautomatic rifles specifically designed to comply with the terms of the federal ban. Massachusetts legislators certainly had notice that such firearms were available and considered federally compliant when they enacted the state’s own law four years after the enactment of the federal law. The reference to the federal law in Massachusetts’ own statute made it clear to all for nearly 20 years that rifles which were available during the federal ban were also legal in Massachusetts.

Nevertheless, on July 20, 2016 – weeks after a highly-publicized mass murder at an Orlando, Florida nightclub – Massachusetts’ antigun Attorney General Maura Healy issued an “enforcement notice” that upset nearly two decades of settled law and unilaterally expanded the reach of the state ban. In particular, the notice created two “tests” not present in the Massachusetts statute to redefine prohibited “duplicates” or “copies” of banned firearms. Law-abiding gun owners and retailers throughout the state were, with the stroke of a pen, retroactively declared in possession of contraband for having firearms that had been openly sold within the state since the first Bush administration without incident or suggestion of wrongdoing.

Oddly, for an announcement that claimed merely to be providing guidance on the enforcement of existing law, Healy’s notice stated firearms obtained prior to July 20, 2016, would be exempt from the new policies, subject to her right to alter or amend the guidance at a later date. More ominously, the notice stated that alteration of existing firearms would not serve to remove them from the newly prohibited categories.

Recognizing that Healy’s move amounted, in essence, to her own rewriting of the statute, firearm dealers, gun owners, and advocacy groups sued to block implementation of the enforcement notice.

The Workman case in particular cited violations of due process, unconstitutional vagueness, and violation of the Second Amendment.

Judge Young first took the unusual step of dismissing the due process claims on ripeness grounds, even though the state itself had not raised this issue in its own defense. Young cited the non-binding grandfather clauses and the fact that no prosecutions had yet been brought against person currently in possession of the newly-banned guns to dismiss the claims that the enforcement notice retroactively criminalized behavior understood to be legal when it occurred. By doing so, he indicated he knew more about the state’s future intentions than the state itself, which had reserved the right to change its mind about retroactive enforcement.

Young also denied the vagueness challenges, finding the phrase “copies or duplicates” to be “sufficiently clear” to pass constitutional muster, even though the entire premise of the enforcement notice was that this phrase had been universally misunderstood until Maura Healy finally set everyone straight.

Most egregious of all, however, was the court’s treatment of the Second Amendment claims. Here, Judge Young’s bias was clear from the outset of the opinion, as he needlessly and inaccurately opined, “For most of our history, mainstream scholarship considered the Second Amendment as nothing more than a guarantee that the several states can maintain ‘well regulated’ militias.”

Putting aside the fact that federal judges are bound by Supreme Court precedent, not legal scholarship rejected by the high court, the earliest of Young’s citations for this proposition was a 1966 law review article. An article published in the mid 20th Century, however, is hardly direct evidence of what Americans were thinking during the previous 175 years of American history.

That evidence, on the other hand, was exhaustively examined by the Supreme Court’s 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller. Justice Scalia’s opinion in that case featured voluminous citations, including to legal scholarship known to the authors of the Bill of Rights, contemporaneous writings, early commentary on the Second Amendment, and 19th Century case law on the Second Amendment and state analogues. Scalia’s analysis contradicts Young’s claim and demonstrates that from the time of its adoption, the Second Amendment was well understood to protect an individual right and to extend to the types of “arms” in “common use at the time” for “lawful purposes like self-defense.”

That description certainly fits the AR-15 and its “copies and duplicates,” which are not only “common” in contemporary America but comprise the most popular rifles in the country.

Nevertheless, Young upheld Massachusetts’ ban on those firearms, ruling that the firearms and magazines banned by that act “are not within the scope of the personal right to ‘bear arms’ under the Second Amendment.”

Young’s “analysis” in this regard relied chiefly on the “reasoning” in an earlier case from the Fourth Circuit, Kolbe v. Hogan, which we reported on at the time. That opinion ignored the common use test and read Heller to leave wholly unprotected “weapons that are most useful in military service.”

Heller, of course, did no such thing. It simply used that phrase to describe machine guns like the M-16 that are banned under federal law, notwithstanding their use in defense of the nation by America’s professional standing Army. The same paragraph even indicated that the very reason a ban on M-16s is valid is because it encompasses “sophisticated arms that are highly unusual in society at large.” That description certainly does not match the ubiquitous AR-15 and similar magazine fed semiautomatic rifles that until recently were available at Walmart and are still sold by other big box retailers.

But we don’t have to guess what Justice Scalia might have thought of Massachusetts’ ban on popular semiautomatic rifles, because he joined an opinion written by Justice Thomas that dissented from the Supreme Court’s refusal to review a Seventh Circuit decision upholding a very similar ban from Illinois. Characterizing that and similar circuit decisions as “noncompliance with our Second Amendment precedents,” that dissent explained the proper test under Heller for which arms are protected by the Second Amendment.

“Heller, Thomas wrote, “asks whether the law bans types of firearms commonly used for a lawful purpose—regardless of whether alternatives exist.” Moreover, it “draws a distinction between such firearms and weapons specially adapted to unlawful uses and not in common use, such as sawed-off shotguns.” The dissent noted, “Roughly five million Americans own AR-style semiautomatic rifles,” and “[t]he overwhelming majority of citizens who own and use such rifles do so for lawful purposes … .” The dissenters then concluded, “Under our precedents, that is all that is needed for citizens to have a right under the Second Amendment to keep such weapons.”

Nevertheless, Judge Young concluded his opinion by insisting that “Massachusetts is free to ban these weapons and large capacity magazines” and that “Justice Scalia would be proud.”

We can only hope that Justice Thomas and his Supreme Court colleagues will one day have a chance to review the Massachusetts ban or a similar law and explain just how wrong Judge William G. Young and his likeminded antigun activists in the judiciary truly are.


National Rifle Association Institute For Legislative Action (NRA-ILA)

About:
Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the “lobbying” arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Visit: www.nra.org

  • 20 thoughts on “Judge William G. Young Mocks the Late Justice Scalia While Upholding Gun Ban

    1. The Scalia Legacy

      Two recent apparent retreats on 2nd Amendment rights have caused a great deal of confusion and consternation.
      On November 27 2017, the Supreme Court of the United States turned down two cases challenging infringing state gun laws, both of which had been decided wrongly in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

      #1)
      One was a Florida case, where the state courts have declared that there is a state constitutional right to bear arms for self-defense but that carrying concealed is a privilege, not a right.

      #2)
      Additionally, the Supreme Court refused to grant a writ of certiorari in the appeal of Maryland’s ban on certain semi-automatic rifles, and magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.
      The ban includes non-detachable magazines, and includes some of the most popular rifles in the United States.

      ???)
      These cases continue the Supreme Court’s current reluctance to enforce and clarify the court rulings in the Heller and Mcdonald cases.
      Four justices are required to grant a writ of certiorari.
      By denying these cases, the court refused to step into the national debate over gun control that has been raging on Capitol Hill following a slew of mass shootings in recent months in which assault weapons were used.

      !!!)
      Shoes of Scalia, … too big to fill, … yet.
      Antonin Scalia was so brilliant, knowledgeable, personable, and persuasive, that on many cases, especially those involving the 2nd Amendment, he led the court.

      Until that incredible void can be filled, we dare not allow Ginsberg, Kagan, Sotomayor, unreliable Roberts, and squishy Kennedy to chip away at, and perhaps even roll back the hard fought and precious victories of our Patron Saint Scalia.

      There are times to advance, to dig in, to consolidate, and even to strategically withdraw.

      This is a time to stand our ground and prepare for our next advance, … when our ranks are replenished.

      Q.E.D.

    2. All because their is, NO CONSEQUENCES. no one does anything about the systematic destruction of this country. we should have drawn a line during the early stages when mob rule kept people away from, then, DONALD TRUMP CONVENTIONS. The day I saw mobs of immigrants, half breeds, gang members chasing and beating up people we should have started fighting a Civilian war. we are being surrounded by this cancer called the progressive left. if we do not wake and stop being conservative about fighting, we will, we are defeated. all because their is, NO CONSEQUENCES. THE DEMOCRATS DO NOT NEED BOTS, THEY HAVE FELONS IN PRISONS, MIGRANTS, ILLEGALS, NO ID VOTERS, DEAD PEOPLE and UNIONS TO VOTE. If we do not fix this the EU influence that is destroying this world. it will never stop. Problem is all because their is, NO CONSEQUENCES. The sold out EU organizations, like MSM, Hollywood, Senior Executive Service, communist educators and Judges, NEVER PAY FOR THE WRONG DOING. Where is the leader to start the war to rid the country of the EU INSURRECTION in this country. WAKE UP and KNOW YOUR ENEMY. THE EU and these communist mouth pieces.

    3. “[T]he opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional and what not, not only for themselves, in their, own sphere of action, but for the Legislature and Executive also in their spheres, would make the Judiciary a despotic branch.” —Thomas Jefferson, letter to Abigail Adams, 1804

    4. the word people is mentioned in the 1st, 2nd 4th and 10th amendment…regulate is defined as..to adjust to a particular standard, rate, degree, amount..and since its the bill of rights theres no way our founders intended government to infringe upon our rights!!

    5. Wake up America – this is the typical type of mentally damaged so called judges we are dealing with!! My God, what true liberal, progressive pukes.

    6. Just another pattern cut liberal idiot. If you don’t like the law change it according to your liking. It is simple, feel good way of doing things and is going to finish off the Nation that is Based on Laws. That is what the global control faction wants

      1. @Tcat, Just another “I am smarter than everyone else that has gone before” Massachusetts libtard position abuser. He should be a grill ornament on a old pickup.

        1. @ Wild Bill I agree with you up to the point of the grill ornament on an old pickup and I have to make some distinctions at that point. There are many old pickups out there, either restored or not, that are worth much more that his sorry a$$. An old Toyota or Nissan would be ok, though.

          1. any oldToyota that is still operatioinal is worth far more than this inflated-ego hooh hah. He is an unelected unaccountable lawmaker in a black nightie. And should be rendered all the respect due such a creature. I’ve known some old Toyo pickups to have stood the test of time far better than this clown demonstrates. To inflict his likeness upon such a noble creation would be a travesty, the nadir of bad taste and disgrace… to the truck.

    7. These liberal judges need to be removed from the bench for their bias rulings. It does not matter what they think. It matters what the bill of rights said. Will not be infringed

        1. @Marc DV, I think that you are on to something. If his Honor likes booze we could send him a case. Drink up your esteemed lordship! We got crack and whores in the other room just waiting on you!

    8. Don’t ya Just Love The Judicial Two Step !
      It Was Good For Them , But Not For You !
      I Can Do What I Want , I’m A Judge, Your a NO-Body !
      I am The Law and Don’t You Forget It .
      If You Don’t Do as I Say You’ll Go to JAIL !
      PAY the CLERK on Your Way Out !

      1. These unconstitutional rulings by judges who desire to re-write the Constitution must be viewed with deep consern at the department of justice. The D.O.J. Must strike down such rulings and fine them the cost of trial and re-educate the judges who do not adhere to The Constitution, and sack them if called for, and review their past rulings and right the wrongs perpetrated.

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