Supreme Court Allows Maryland Assault Weapons Ban to Stand

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on November 27, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Maryland was already one of the ten toughest states when it comes to gun control laws. And then the state's General Assembly banned the sale of military-style rifles and detachable magazines in 2013, in the wake of the deadly shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

Guns rights groups challenged the Firearm Safety Act on Second Amendment grounds, but it was upheld by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. As expected, that decision was appealed to the Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case, leaving the Fourth's Circuit's decision in place.

Gun Ban

As we noted after the Fourth Circuit's ruling, Maryland's assault weapons ban applied to military-style arms and ammunition capabilities:

The characterization of the arms impacted by the FSA was essential to the case's outcome. The state had advanced uncontroverted evidence that the firearms affected by the FSA were "exceptionally lethal weapons of war," the Fourth noted. The AR-15 was developed for the U.S. Army, where it's known as an M16. The AK-47 was its Soviet equivalent. Civilian versions of both are semiautomatic, rather than fully automatic, "but otherwise retain the military features and capabilities" of their military cousins.

That distinguished those weapons from other firearms -- those used "in defense of hearth and home" -- that could not be banned under the Supreme Court's prior gun control ruling in D.C. v. Heller. The Fourth Circuit concluded instead that "assault weapons and large-capacity magazines are not protected by the Second Amendment."

Gun Case

By declining the request of 21 state attorneys general and the NRA to review the Fourth Circuit's ruling, Maryland's assault weapons ban remains in place, providing a template for other states to do the same if they so choose.

"The Maryland Firearm Safety Act is a common-sense law," Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh said in response to the Court's decision. "The Supreme Court's denial of certiorari confirms the principle that states may protect their citizens and communities from the devastation of these weapons of war ... Assault weapons, which have resulted in the slaughter of hundreds of people in recent months, are not protected by the Second Amendment."

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