Appeals court upholds MD assault weapons ban
The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a Maryland law that bans assault weapons, a major test of new gun control measures passed in the wake of the deadly massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
The en banc panel of the court, meeting in Richmond, overturned a three-judge panel that ruled against the law. In a 10-4 ruling, 4th Circuit judges sided with Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, a Democrat who introduced the bill when he served in the state Senate in 2013.
The 10-member majority said assault weapons like those banned under the Maryland law were disproportionately used in mass shootings and in assaults on law enforcement officers. Judge Robert King, writing for the majority, said assault weapons are not protected under the Second Amendment.
Maryland’s ban on assault weapons still allows citizens to protect themselves “with a plethora of other firearms and ammunition,” King wrote. King cited shootings in Aurora, Colo.; San Bernardino, Calif.; Orlando, Fla.; Virginia Tech; Fort Hood, Texas; Binghampton, N.Y.; and Tucson, Ariz., the incident in which then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) was shot in the head.
In a statement, Frosh said the ruling would protect Marylanders from mass shootings.
“It is unthinkable that these weapons of war, weapons that caused the carnage in Newtown and in other communities across the country, would be protected by the Second Amendment,” Frosh said.
The Fourth Circuit is the second major court to back bans on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines that passed in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre. The Second Circuit upheld bans passed in New York and Connecticut in a 2015 ruling.
Both rulings came after the Supreme Court ruled in 2008, in District of Columbia v. Heller, that individuals had a constitutional right to own some firearms. The Heller decision excluded military-style assault weapons.
Plaintiffs who sued to overturn the law could still appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. A spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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