The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Maryland recently handed down a decision that will have devastating consequences for gun rights advocates. The plaintiff is a gun shop owner who challenged Maryland’s strict Firearms Safety Act of 2013. The FSA is Maryland’s strict gun law that bans firearms that it classifies as “assault” weapons. The FSA also makes it illegal to manufacture, buy or sell “high capacity magazines” (magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds). The FSA makes it illegal to possess an assault rifle unless it was bought prior to October 1, 2013. The state classifies rifles such as the Bushmaster rifle as an assault rifle.
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Second Amendment does not apply to assault weapons and large-capacity magazines. The court relied on the U.S Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia v Heller to conclude that assault weapons are beyond the scope of the Second Amendment. In Heller, the Supreme Court ruled that rifles such as the M-16 are most useful in military service and are beyond the scope of the Second Amendment.
In its decision, the Court of Appeals criticized the plaintiff’s for failing to present any evidence to substantiate a self defense motive for owning an assault weapon. The court went on to say that neither Maryland law enforcement officials nor the plaintiff’s could identify a single case in which a citizen of Maryland used a military-style rifle in defense or needed to fire more than ten rounds to defend himself.
The Appeals Court explained its reasoning for upholding the gun ban by stating that large-capacity magazines allow a shooter to inflict mass casualties without allowing victims time to escape. Also, the court said that large-capacity magazines deprived victims and law enforcement officers of the opportunity to fight back while the shooter was reloading his weapon. The court went on to say that guns using high-capacity magazines were particularly dangerous in the hands of law abiding citizens. The court reasoned that inadequately trained civilians fire more rounds than necessary whenever they are using guns with high-capacity magazines. This increases the danger to innocent bystanders because every extra round fired increases their chances of being killed or injured by a stray bullet.
The Court of Appeals concluded that the State of Maryland submitted enough evidence to prove that the ban on large-capacity magazines and assault weapons will promote public safety by reducing the amount of these type of armaments that are available to fall into the hands of criminals and mass shooters. The court further concluded that the ban would both reduce the threat to law enforcement and serve as a hindrance to civilians who might unintentionally misuse those types of weapons. The court noted that it did not expect the gun ban to eliminate all gun crimes and accidents. The court said that the ban would reduce the number of number of deaths and injuries because more shots were fired by a perpetrators when they used assault type weapons.
This landmark court decision is seen as an example of the federal government respecting the will of the citizens of Maryland who have chosen to elect progressive state legislatures to pass laws that protect the innocent from these evil-doers who use assault weapons to inflict mass casualties. The FSA was passed after the Newtown massacre.