U.S. Appeals Court to Determine Constitutionality of Maryland’s ‘Assault Weapons’ Ban

Maryland’ Attorney General Douglas Gansler. (Photo: Baltimore Sun)

Maryland’ Attorney General Douglas Gansler. (Photo: Baltimore Sun)

The 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals is set to determine the constitutionality of Maryland’s Firearms Safety Act of 2013, a piece of legislation that bans the possession of “assault weapons” as well as the sale and purchase of magazines holding more than 10 rounds.

The 14-judge panel heard arguments from both sides of the case Wednesday but did not make a decision. The NRA-ILA reports that the outcome is “too close to call at this point.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, the case hinges on whether or not “assault weapons”—semi-automatic, high capacity rifles—constitute “dangerous and unusual weapons.” The Supreme Court ruled in its 2008 D.C. v Heller majority opinion that state and federal governments can ban weapons that fall into the “dangerous and unusual” category without violating the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

Challengers to the Maryland law—including the Maryland State Rifle and Pistol Association—argued that these rifles are neither particularly dangerous nor unusual. Semi-automatic long guns are “commonly kept by law-abiding citizens” in Maryland and across the nation, they wrote. “There are at least eight million AR-15 and AK-47 style firearms in the United States. Firearms based on these two popular models accounted for approximately 20 percent of firearm sales in 2012.”

Those in favor of the law disagree.

When asked why semi-automatic rifles are more “dangerous and unusual” than semi-automatic shotguns, Assistant Attorney General Matthew Fader said the legislature had gathered sufficient evidence that “assault weapons” are “particularly dangerous” and had not drawn the same conclusion about the other firearms, the Washington Post reported.

Maryland’s Attorney General Douglas Gansler argued that the law is a reasonable measure designed to protect public safety and “reduce the negative effects of firearms violence,” the WSJ reported. AK-47s and AR-15s are “suited, for military-style assaults,” not sport shooting or self-defense.

Judge Robert B. King summed it up like this: “Let’s be real: The assault weapons banned by Maryland’s [law] are exceptionally lethal weapons of war” and, as such, are not constitutionally protected.

A decision in favor of the law, challenges responded, “would further erode the rights of law-abiding citizens to own protected firearms to the point where they would be equated with criminals, domestic violence misdemeanants, and illegal drug users.”

Even criminals, it turns out, don’t prefer to use “assault weapons” to commit crimes. According to the FBI, rifles of any kind (not just “assault rifles”) were used in only 2.6 percent of all homicides. By contrast, “hands, fists, feet, etc.” were used in 5.7 percent of homicides, and knives were used in a whopping 13.4 percent.

If Maryland is looking to ban “dangerous” weapons, they should take a closer look at a statewide knife ban. According to the numbers, sharp objects are almost seven times more dangerous than AR-15s.

“Assault rifles” aren’t much more “unusual,” either. There are an estimated 20-30 million of these firearms in the United States today, which equals nearly one rifle for every ten people. To put that in context, there are just under 11 million swimming pools in the United States that kill approximately 390 people per year, making pools both more unusual and more dangerous than “assault weapons.”

The Court is set to release their decision in the next few weeks.

About the author: Jordan Michaels has been reviewing firearm-related products for over two years and enjoying them for much longer. With family in Canada, he’s seen first hand how quickly the right to self-defense can be stripped from law-abiding citizens. He escaped that statist paradise at a young age, married a sixth-generation Texan, and currently lives in Waco.

{ 17 comments… add one }
  • playcheats.net May 29, 2016, 4:07 pm

    Good response in return of this difficulty with real arguments and describing everything about that.

  • Kalashnikov Dude May 23, 2016, 1:53 pm

    The highest law of our land says “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” That’s what it means. “Arms” is anything that may be used to defend against tyranny, or invading forces. It certainly does not mean single shot, break open 410 gauge shot guns and .22 caliber pistols with five round magazines or less. Actually reading and understanding the English language helps. Because our Bill Of Rights, and US Constitution are written in English. As far as I know, there is no Spanish on the reverse side like many of our governments documents today. The simple matter of fact is that there is no interpretation of our 2nd Amendment that could possibly define semi automatic rifles or handguns of any configuration illegal for US citizens in good standing to keep and bear. Anybody telling you different is a liar. Treat em as such and the fight is over. If they continue trying to undermine your rights, or confiscating your guns, you can shoot em. I will. May 1986? A lie and a serious breach of our contract with the federal government. You do not have to abide it. Let alone the spurious bullshit that’s been foisted upon us all by the steady degeneration of our government and political system since. We do not even have to abide the unreasonable taxes levied against certain types of arms and accessories since the 1930’s. It’s about time we started taking all of this illegal legislation for what it is. INFRINGEMENTS THAT WILL NO LONGER BE TOLERATED. That’s where I’m at. Step up and take back your freedoms guaranteed by our founding documents. It’s up to all of you. I can’t do it alone.

  • Josh May 21, 2016, 4:59 pm

    If Maryland is looking to ban “dangerous” weapons, they should take a closer look at a statewide knife ban. According to the numbers, sharp objects are almost seven times more dangerous than AR-15s.

    Seriously? Stop giving them ideas!! Whose side are you on here?

  • Marty May 20, 2016, 6:18 pm

    The assault weapons banned by Maryland’s [law] are exceptionally lethal weapons of war” and, as such, are not constitutionally protected.

    The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

    The key word I see here is Militia! One can not defend their home or country with a BB gun. From what I hear on the military readiness being nearing 70% due to funding shortfalls. We may need to step up against foreign oppression.

    • Blasted Cap May 21, 2016, 7:30 am

      I’d be more concerned with the current trend of domestic oppression.

    • rrangel May 21, 2016, 3:58 pm

      The political class left doesn’t hate guns. Just those guns, in the hands of regular law abiding people, who will not be bullied. They prefer their subjects, to be marginalized, and easily coerced. Hence, the left actually loves guns, because they’ll need guns to take yours away.

  • Chris May 20, 2016, 3:49 pm

    The attorney general, has no evidence of the guns being unusual or that they are particularly dangerous. They are not more dangerous and lethal , yes they can be both of those things however, they are almost never used in crime nor suicides. So why exactly do they insist that its in the “interest of public safety ” to ban them? The answer is simple they think that they can, because they dont like ANY guns. These ones are easily vilified. The only problem is there is no evidence to support those radical claims.

  • John D Stiebitz May 20, 2016, 3:33 pm

    Attorney General Douglas Gansler does not know along with most Democrats what a assault weapon is. Every semi-automatic firearm is not an assault weapon. Fully auto firearms could be called assault weapons but not the semi-autos. Attorney General Douglas Gansler needs to learn the truth for a change.

    • Steve May 20, 2016, 6:30 pm

      Really, “assault” is an action and not a descriptor. The demoncraps* made up “assault weapon” in order to gain control with language games.
      When you get down to it, “assault weapon” can be used to cover any weapon used in an assault.
      It’s just a means to an end in order to disarm the people and rule over them autocratically.

      *what I call a majority of democrats as I see them as being demonic and full of crap.

  • Jackhammer May 20, 2016, 12:44 pm

    They will lose this one too! Keep on wasting the People’s money.

  • Peter May 20, 2016, 9:52 am

    Were it any State other than the liberal cesspool of Maryland (Hogan winning was the exception), I would say there is a chance it being struck down as unconstitutional. SCOTUS has already ruled that to ban a weapon or class of weapons they must be BOTH dangerous AND unusual. To ban a weapon because it is ‘either’ would ban every weapon. This ruling came from Mass V. Jaime Caetano.

  • Ed May 20, 2016, 9:25 am

    From the article:

    Judge Robert B. King summed it up like this: “Let’s be real: The assault weapons banned by Maryland’s [law] are exceptionally lethal weapons of war” and, as such, are not constitutionally protected.

    Let’s be real Mr. King. The 2nd Amendment is written to protect the ability of a militia to defend freedom. (“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State”) It is “lethal weapons of war” that are EXPLICITLY protected. Unless, of course, Mr. King thinks that our country can be defended from “all enemies, foreign and domestic” with single shot .22 caliber pistols!

    What a foolish, foolish man.

    • Jackhammer May 20, 2016, 12:46 pm

      And to protect ourselves from would-be tyrants like this Judge.

  • Steve May 20, 2016, 8:12 am

    I continue to believe that these cases are not properly fought. At least by the descriptions we read. Why fight the fact that these are assault weapons? When these are termed ‘assault weapon’ simply start with an automatic military grade rifle, define that, and then walk court back down to any semi-automatic (not AR). Then when this latter weapon is termed not an assault weapon, link the same characteristics to the AR and conclude that the anti-gunners are simply reacting to design and so the term in function should be thrown out. Then show video of AR15 in competitions and quote numbers in use, same for hunting, same for protection. With these two we eliminate any attributes of “dangerous and unusual” (and remove the link to military purpose as it applies to AR).

  • Mike May 13, 2016, 5:08 pm

    Sorry sit too much on the losing end

  • Mike May 13, 2016, 5:07 pm

    There is no way we will win this case. Are rights are being stripped one by one, and we sit to much on the winning end

    • John D Stiebitz May 20, 2016, 3:25 pm

      Then vote for Trump!

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