Military-style rifles aren’t protected by the Second Amendment, 4th Circuit rules

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Second Amendment


Second Amendment

An en banc federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld Maryland’s ban on military-style assault rifles and large-capacity magazines.

The Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that such weapons and magazines are not protected by the Second Amendment, report the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.). How Appealing links to the opinion (PDF) and additional coverage.

Nine judges agreed there was no Second Amendment protection. The finding goes beyond the decisions of other appeals courts that have upheld bans on assault weapons.

The majority said the U.S. Supreme Court had explicitly excluded weapons of war from Second Amendment coverage in the 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, which said the amendment protects the right to own a gun.

The Wall Street Journal says the Supreme Court has refused to review other decisions on assault-weapons bans. But the 4th Circuit’s decision upholding the 2013 Maryland law, “with its broad language, may prove irresistible.”

The full appeals court heard the case after a 4th Circuit panel ruled last February that the Second Amendment applies, and a Baltimore judge should apply a strict scrutiny standard when evaluating Maryland’s ban. Maryland lawmakers passed the ban after the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

The en banc appeals court said that, even if such weapons are protected by the Second Amendment, a federal judge properly applied intermediate scrutiny to the law and upheld it. A 10th judge would have upheld the law using that alternate ground. Four dissenters said the weapons were protected by the Second Amendment, and the law should be evaluated using strict scrutiny.




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