Gun Groups Evaluate Options After Court Upholds Maryland Assault-Weapons Ban

Gun Groups Evaluate Options After Court Upholds Maryland Assault-Weapons Ban

A federal appeals court has upheld Maryland's ban on 45 assault weapons and a 10-round limit on gun magazines.

The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond, Virginia, reconsidered a divided ruling issued previous year that found citizens have a "fundamental right" to own these weapons, and that laws restricting the right deserve the toughest level of constitutional scrutiny.

Maryland passed a sweeping gun-control measure after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre that killed 20 children and six educators in CT.

In a 10-4 decision, the court sided with gun safety activists by ruling that the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark District of Columbia v. Heller decision in 2008 allows for governments to regulate firearms, including placing restrictions on assault weapons. He wrote, the majority "has gone to greater lengths than any other court to eviscerate the constitutionally guaranteed right to keep and bear arms".

The majority disagreed in its opinion Tuesday siding with Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh who said the Second Amendment does not prevent legislators from passing measures created to protect the public from gun violence.

Baker also said the NRA is looking at options for appealing the ruling, which reversed an earlier decision by a smaller panel of judges that was sent back to the full panel for review, according to The Baltimore Sun.

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Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, who led the push for the law in 2013 as a state senator, said it's "unthinkable that these weapons of war, weapons that caused the carnage in Newtown and in other communities across the country, would be protected by the Second Amendment".

"Put simply, we have no power to extend Second Amendment protection to the weapons of war", Judge Robert King wrote, referring to the "military-style rifles" that were also used during mass shootings in Aurora, Colorado, San Bernardino, California, and Orlando, Florida. The majority opinion, she added, ignores the Supreme Court's guidance from Heller that "the Second Amendment protects arms that are 'in common use at the time for lawful purposes like self-defense'".

Seven states and the District of Columbia have banned semiautomatic rifles, and several have faced legal challenges. "Most other courts have assumed that they fall inside and are still subject to ban". The high court has repeatedly declined to review bans on firearms that New York, Connecticut and other jurisdictions have classified as "assault weapons".

Summary: A federal appeals court upheld a lower ruling that the listed assault weapons and ammunition magazine limits of a Maryland ban are not protected under the constitution. But in saying that such weapons are not protected by the Second Amendment, the 4th Circuit has taken a different approach.

U.S. Circuit Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson, an appointee under President Ronald Reagan, wrote his own argument agreeing with the new ruling and scolding America's lawmakers for not taking similar action. Instead of using Heller's test of whether a firearm is in "common use" combined with whether it is "dangerous and unusual", the Fourth Circuit focused on whether or not a firearm is "most useful in military service".