Assault weapons are not protected by the Second Amendment, a federal appeals court ruled yesterday in a case involving Maryland’s ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
The U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., issued a 10-4 ruling yesterday upholding the ban yesterday.
“Put simply, we have no power to extend Second Amendment protection to the weapons of war” – “weapons that are most useful in military service,” as defined by another court decision – wrote Judge Robert King for the majority.
In 2013, then-Gov. Martin O’Malley signed the Firearm Safety Act into law. The measure banned 45 types of military-style weapons and magazines holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Maryland was one of several states that passed such laws in response to the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Connecticut, in which a gunman used an AR-15 to murder 20 children and six school staff members.
Since then, the law has been taken to task by Second Amendment defenders, including other states. The Sun reported in 2014 that 21 states had signed onto a lawsuit challenging the ban.
In 2015, a U.S. District judge upheld the law, but last, a three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that judge didn’t apply the proper legal standard of scrutiny for the law. The state then appealed the case to the the full appeals court, which handed down its decision yesterday.
Judge William Traxler condemned the ruling in a dissenting opinion. “In concluding that the Second Amendment does not even apply, the majority has gone to greater lengths than any other court to eviscerate the constitutionally guaranteed right to keep and bear arms,” he wrote.
Attorney General Brian Frosh was happy about the outcome. Frosh advocated for the 2013 assault weapons ban after the Sandy Hook shootings. In a statement, he praised the decision as defending a “common-sense law.”
“In upholding the law, the court credited evidence that the weapons covered by the law were not only ‘designed for the battlefield,’ but also ‘have been used disproportionately to their ownership in mass shootings and the murders of law enforcement officers,’” he said, quoting the ruling.
This may not be the end for this case, however. While the Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to Connecticut and New York’s assault-weapons bans last year, the judges could agree to hear an appeal of yesterday’s ruling.
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