In what was a difficult blow for gun owners in the Free State, on Tuesday, a federal judge upheld Maryland’s new gun-control law signed into law by Gov. Martin O’Malley in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
In her 47-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake said that the law, which expanded the ban on so-called assault weapons, was constitutional because modern sporting rifles “fall outside Second Amendment protection as dangerous and unusual.”
Judge Blake also rejected the plaintiffs claim that these rifles are “commonly possessed for lawful purposes, particularly self-defense,” suggesting that the numbers presented just don’t add up.
“First, the court is not persuaded that assault weapons are commonly possessed based on the absolute number of those weapons owned by the public,” wrote Blake. “Even accepting that there are 8.2 million assault weapons in the civilian gun stock, as the plaintiffs claim, assault weapons represent no more than 3% of the current civilian gun stock, and ownership of those weapons is highly concentrated in less than 1% of the U.S. population.”
The Clinton-appointee argued that statistics indicate that so-called assault weapons are “disproportionately represented in mass shootings,” and are not better suited for self-defense.
“As for their claims that assault weapons are well-suited for self-defense, the plaintiffs proffer no evidence beyond their desire to possess assault weapons for self-defense in the home that they are in fact commonly used, or possessed, for that purpose,” wrote Blake.
She concluded by stating that “assault weapons are military-style weapons designed for offensive use, and are equally, or possibly even more effective, in functioning and killing capacity as their fully automatic versions.”
The ruling was a victory for the O’Malley administration, which heavily backed the law.
“We are pleased with today’s federal court decision upholding the constitutionality of Maryland’s Firearms Safety Act of 2013,” said Maryland Attorney Doug Gansler in a statement released on Tuesday.
“The banning of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines is a vital tool in the effort to help protect Marylanders from the most destructive weapons available for use by criminals,” continued Gansler, who defended the law in court.
Gansler added, “This ruling reflects our view that the law in no way infringes the Second Amendment rights of Marylanders. It is consistent with the advice we gave state lawmakers who carefully drafted legislation to assist law enforcement in its efforts to curtail gun violence.”
Meanwhile, Maryland Shall Issue, one of the main plaintiffs in the case, known as Kolbe et al v. O’Malley et al, along with the Associated Gun Clubs of Baltimore, Maryland Licensed Firearms Dealers Association, Maryland State Rifle and Pistol Association, and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said the fight is not over.
“We are disappointed to report that the District Court of Maryland has found the AWB (assault weapons ban) provision of SB 281 constitutional,” said the group on Facebook. “We will, of course, be appealing the decision.”