News & Politics

Appeals Court to Revisit Maryland 'Assault' Weapon Ban

Maryland’s “assault” weapon ban will be challenged in court, after a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals questioned the constitutionality of the ban.

The state of Maryland banned certain semiautomatic weapons following the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

A group of Maryland gun store owners say the 2013 ban prevents law-abiding citizens from possessing “the vast majority of semiautomatic rifles commonly kept by several million American citizens for defending their families.”

Maryland’s law bans semiautomatic long guns with certain military-style features that the legislature concluded are particularly dangerous and that the law refers to as “assault weapons.” The measure does not ban all long guns, rifles or semiautomatic rifles.

The question for the full panel of 15 judges at the Richmond-based court is what legal standard the lower court should use to evaluate the ban.

Military-style features are features that look “scary.” Here is a long list of weapons that are banned in Maryland. Any rifle which has two out of three of the following characteristics is banned: “folding stock, grenade launcher or flash suppressor — is considered an ‘assault weapon’ and now illegal in Maryland. The statute also makes specific pistols, rifles and, shotguns — ‘or a copy regardless of the producer or manufacturer’ — banned in the ‘Free State.'”

A 2 to 1 decision in February found the lower court should have used a more stringent standard because of the law’s effects on Second Amendment rights.  The lone dissenter, Jude Robert B. King, objected in his opinion: “Let’s be real: The assault weapons banned by Maryland’s [law] are exceptionally lethal weapons of war,” therefore not constitutionally protected.

King made up this distinction out of whole cloth, as the Second Amendment doesn’t make a distinction between “weapons” and “weapons of war.”

The government shamefully argued in its court filings that the Second Amendment “does not prioritize an individual’s desire to own a particular firearm over a state legislature’s reasonable judgment as to how best to protect its citizens from the devastating effects of firearm violence.”

Now this is true: legislators can pass laws to protect citizens from gun violence as long as those laws don’t infringe on the people’s right to keep and bear arms. I’m not sure what those laws would be since murder and shooting someone without cause are already illegal, but by all means, make laws as long as the right to keep and bear arms remains in tact.