It’s back to “square one” for a federal court challenge to Maryland’s 2013 gun control law that banned so-called “assault weapons” and large capacity magazines, with a federal appeals court ordering the lower district court to apply strict scrutiny to the law.
It’s a major victory for gun rights advocates, say Second Amendment and industry groups. And some experts suggest that the Maryland statute will not stand up under the strict scrutiny standard.
The 2-1 ruling, in a case called Kolbe v. Maryland, came from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh, who supported the law as a state senator, contended that the appeals court majority is wrong, the Washington Post reported, and said he will appeal the ruling, either to the full appellate court or to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“I think it’s just common sense that the Second Amendment does not give people a right to own military-style assault weapons,” Frosh told the Washington Post.
Perhaps Frosh has it wrong, though. Gun rights advocates repeatedly explain that the Second Amendment does not “give” anybody anything. It merely affirms and protects a pre-existing fundamental right.
The ruling was hailed by Chris Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action. In a statement released Thursday afternoon, Cox said, “The Fourth Circuit’s ruling is an important victory for the Second Amendment. Maryland’s ban on commonly owned firearms and magazines clearly violates our fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms for self-defense. The highest level of judicial scrutiny should apply when governments try to restrict our Second Amendment freedoms.”
Lawrence Keane, senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said the industry organization is “greatly heartened” by the ruling.
“As this important case goes forward,” Keane said, “NSSF will continue to work with our co-plaintiffs to ensure that our citizens’ Second Amendment rights are protected and that the lawful commerce in firearms is restored in support of this constitutional protection.”
The appeals court remanded the case back to the district court, which had initially decided against the plaintiffs, upholding the constitutionality of Maryland’s ban by using intermediate scrutiny as the legal bar.
The ruling and dissent covered 90 pages and may be read here.
The passage that essentially sums up the ruling may be found on Page 7, in which Chief Judge William B. Traxler wrote, “In our view, Maryland law implicates the core protection of the Second Amendment- “the right of law-abiding responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home,” and we are compelled by Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago as well as our own precedent in the wake of these decisions, to conclude that the burden is substantial and scrict scrutiny is the applicable standard of review for Plaintiffs’ Second Amendment claim. Thus, the panel vacates the district court’s denial of Plaintiffs’ Second Amendment claims and remands for the district court to apply strict scrutiny.”
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