Court Blocks Release of Assault Rifles

From a Times Staff Writer

A federal appeals court Friday temporarily blocked efforts by an Alabama gun dealer to win release of about 1,100 rifles seized by the Customs Service under the government's new ban on imported assault weapons.

The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, issuing a stay on an Alabama federal judge's order to release the rifles, instructed the government to present by Tuesday its arguments on why it should be allowed to keep possession of the guns.

U.S. District Judge William M. Acker Jr. in Birmingham declared Wednesday that the Customs Service had no right to hold the Steyr-Aug rifles because the purchaser, Gun South Inc., had a valid import permit for them. However, the government maintains it can freeze such imports while it reviews whether assault rifles are being used for legitimate sporting purposes, as legally required.

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