The 4th Circuit United States Court of Appeals recently ruled that the Second Amendment does not include protections for assault weapons. This decision was made as demonstration that these firearms are not jus exceptionally dangerous, but that they have no bearing in a civil society beyond a military (or murderous) capacity. This decision came about to reverse a previous decision that removed a ban on assault weapons in Maryland, and it represents a tremendous victory for advocates of gun safety and common sense weapons laws. The decision is also a huge setback for those who believe the Second Amendment should cover weapons designed specifically for war and major combat scenarios.
Maryland was one of the first states to pass a ban on assault weapons, which include AK-47s, AR-15s, and all rifles with semiautomatic functionality. Copies of these weapons and any weapon with a magazine of ‘large capacity’ were also included in the ban. Gun proponents promptly sued the state, claiming the ban infringed on their Second Amendment right to bear arms. The initial claims were dismissed, but a 4th Circuit panel of judges upheld the claims, citing the need for ‘strict scrutiny’ with gun regulations. That decision was then vacated by the full court, and the most recent decision by the court shows that such an extreme stance on gun regulations has been rejected.
The decision was made in part due to the prevalence of these assault weapons in major national shootings. The argument is that possession of these weapons by the assailants allowed them to significantly increase the amount of damage they were able to achieve, which ultimately led to higher death tolls. It should be noted that the ban in no way affects the public’s ability to keep and bear handguns for the protection of their person and home, but the decision shows that certain weapons of high capacity are unnecessary for home and personal defense since they were designed for combat operations.
The decision by the 4th Circuit court showcases the use of each weapon, citing that assault weapons are only useful in a military setting. Under that claim, they pointed to the idea that weapons of this type were designed to either disable or kill an enemy on a battlefield. To argue that such weapons are necessary for home protection is ludicrous when handguns are easier to control and cause much less collateral damage.
Since this ban does not strip citizens of their right to defend themselves with arms, it is not subject to the scrutiny of the Second Amendment. The ban merely attempts to prevent the slaughtering of massive numbers of innocent citizens at the hands of lunatics who are able to acquire such instruments of death. The ban only targets weapons that are able to create incredible chaos and violence in a relatively short amount of time. Incidentally, the argument could be made that assault weapons are completely unnecessary in a domestic sense, even against those who wield assault weapons against a crowd. The weapon itself is inconsequential. The true harm comes from the person using it. The argument is that a law enforcement official would not be able to defend the crowd any better with an assault weapon than a standard handgun. In other word, unless you are defending your home or a group of people against a large force of invaders, an assault weapon will not help.
There is no denying the destructive power that assault rifles contain, and they are certainly necessary in many military operations where soldiers are engaging with a large force of enemies, but in terms of personal defense, assault weapons are totally inappropriate. If they were appropriate, they would be called defense weapons, not assault weapons.