An important ruling Thursday by a federal appeals court in the case against Maryland’s ban on so-called “assault weapons”—in truth, simply semi-auto rifles—is a win for both the Constitution and gun owners in the state.
In the case challenging the legality of Maryland’s 2013 ban on so-called “assault weapons” and equally misnamed “high-capacity” magazines, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled a lower court was wrong when it upheld the bans, and has sent it back to the lower court for review.
The three-judge panel, in a 2-1 ruling, said the state’s prohibition on what the court called “the vast majority of semi-automatic rifles commonly kept by several million American citizens” violated the constitutional rights of Maryland’s gun owners, as protected by the Second Amendment.
“In our view, Maryland law implicates the core protection of the Second Amendment—the right of law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home,” wrote Chief Judge William Traxler. The judge also wrote that laws banning these firearms “substantially burden this fundamental right.”
In sending the case back to the lower court, the District Court instructed the judge to apply the constitutional test of “strict scrutiny” to the question of whether the ban violated the Second Amendment. A U.S. District judge had previously ruled the ban was constitutional under the less-stringent test of “intermediate scrutiny.”
Chris W. Cox, executive director of NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, lauded the ruling in this important case.
“The 4th Circuit’s ruling is an important victory for the Second Amendment,” Cox said. “Maryland’s ban on commonly owned firearms and magazines clearly violates our fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms for self-defense. The highest level of judicial scrutiny should apply when governments try to restrict our Second Amendment freedoms.”
Of course, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh has promised to appeal the ruling. We’ll keep you posted as the case moves forward.