‘Weapons of War’: Maryland Assault-Rifle Ban Constitutional, Rules Federal Court
Yesterday, the Richmond, Virginia Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 10-4 that a Maryland assault-weapons ban is constitutional, citing a 5-4 2008 Supreme Court case, as reported by Salon. The decision is said to be the fifth by a federal court upholding a state assault-weapons ban. The most recent ruling goes further than previous, being the first to explicitly declare that ownership of assault weapons, such as the AR-15, is not protected under the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“We have no power to extend Second Amendment protection to the weapons of war that the Heller decision explicitly excluded from such coverage,” Judge Robert King was quoted.
Residents of Maryland who owned properly registered guns that fall under the ban before it went into effect are not affected. However, purchases of new assault weapons and sales of used weapons are prohibited. High-capacity magazines are among banned features.
Speaking about the ban in yesterday’s show, Cenk Uygur, host and co-founder of The Young Turks, expressed his view that the original intent of the Second Amendment was for protecting the rights of a gun owners in “well-regulated” militias, but that the Supreme Court holds a different view: handgun ownership is protected.
“Even the conservative opinion of the Supreme Courts says, ‘Of course, there’s a limit to it,'” Uygur stated. “You can’t roll into town with a tank or an RPG, because of the Second Amendment.”
The TYT host stated his belief that Maryland was operating within the Constitution when it legislated the ban, explaining that the ownership of tanks, RPGs, and AR-15s is not protected. He reiterated that the Supreme Court was dominated by conservatives during the 2008 decision. Uygur also noted a tendency of conservatives to pan “activist judges” who “overturn the will of the people,” and that, if the appeals court had ruled to allow assault-weapons in Maryland, they would be doing just that.
Maryland voters enacted the legislation banning assault weapons in 2013. The 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller case was the first to address the intent of the Second Amendment since 1939. The 2008 ruling overturned a handgun ban in Washington State on the grounds that it was unconstitutional, but added that “weapons most useful in military service” are not protected.
“Flash suppressors, barrel shrouds, folding and telescoping stocks, pistol grips, grenade launchers, night sights, and the ability to accept bayonets and large-capacity magazines,” are reported by The Trace as features “singled out” under weapons bans. States reported to have some form of assault-rifle ban in effect include Hawaii, California, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.
Conservative Judge James Harvie Wilkinson III stated that assault rifles are a “wholly separate subject” from handguns protected under the Second Amendment for personal protection. He went on to cite “so many mass shootings” rendering citizens “powerless,” and state that a federal court overturning the Maryland ban would be a “body blow to democracy.”
Keeping with the “will of the people” precept, Uygur said that just because the citizens of Maryland have decided that they don’t want assault rifles in their state, doesn’t mean that they will be banned in other states.
“That’s, like, your opinion, man,” the host stated.
William Traxler, one of the dissenting four judges in the decision, said the 10 who voted to uphold the ban have done more to “eviscerate the constitutionally guaranteed right to keep and bear arms” than any other court.
Three of several high-profile shootings have been carried out using assault rifles in recent years, including in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater, at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California, and at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in 2012, 2015, and 2016, respectively.
[Featured Image by Scott Olson/Getty Images]