The United States Supreme Court dealt another blow to Second Amendment advocates last week by turning down a challenge to the Maryland 2013 state assault weapons ban, which was enacted after the Connecticut school shooting.
The court dismissed an appeal by the state National Rifle Association, local firearms dealers and several Maryland citizens, who claimed that the assault weapons ban was in violation of their right to bear arms under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. With the backing of the NRA, the plaintiffs claimed in a court filing that semi-automatic rifles are in common use and that law-abiding citizens should not be deprived of such firearms.
In fact, the court sidestepped TWO opportunities to uphold the Constitution and clarify the Second Amendment. They rejected hearing the Maryland appeal to the assault weapons ban and declining to hear a challenge to Florida’s state ban on the open carry of firearms, as well.
The Maryland case focused on so-called “assault weapons”, which have become a major talking point since they were involved in the November attack on a Texas church and the October attack in Las Vegas.
Note: The Texas church shooter was stopped by a civilian neighbor with a similar “assault weapon.”
Maryland state law bans “assault long guns,” mainly semi-automatic weapons such as the AR-15 and AK-47 as well as “large-capacity” magazines, by limiting them to 10 rounds. “Large capacity” magazines include the standard 30 round magazines for such rifles and larger magazines which can hold as many as 100 rounds.
In this particular case, the Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to the Kolbe vs. Hogan ruling that “assault weapons”, including the AR-15, are not protected by the Second Amendment.
The lower court referred to the 2008 Heller decision which suggested that the M-16 rifle — a different fully-automatic or burst fire capable version of the AR-15 — could be banned by states and cities. It voted 10-4 in favor of the assault weapons ban. Judge Robert Kind wrote, “We have no power to extend Second Amendment protection to the ‘weapons of war’ that the Heller decision explicitly excluded from such coverage.”
The National Sheriff’s Association, the Cato Institute, the Independence Institute and the Second Amendment Foundation all supported the Kolbe petitioners, stating: “Maryland’s firearm and ammunition restrictions stem from a misunderstanding of firearms that are in common use by citizens and law enforcement agencies.”
They added that the majority of sheriffs and deputies are armed with semi-automatic handguns with magazines that contain more than 10 rounds, but these weapons are banned in Maryland. Many police patrol cars also carry a rifle that is also banned by the state.
According to the four groups, classifying typical weapons used by sheriffs as “weapons of war” alienates the general public from law enforcement. It also means that if a deputy uses deadly force, citizens can claim that he or she used a military-grade weapon, which is patently false. Ironically, the same weapons referred to as “assault weapons” in civilian hands are referred to as “personal defense weapons” when purchased by the government for law enforcement or government agencies.
They also added: “Law-abiding Americans have always looked to law enforcement for guidance in defensive firearms selection, as they should. Law enforcement firearms are chosen because they are the most suitable arms for the defense of innocents. Citizens should be encouraged to choose the same reliable, accurate, life-saving arms that law enforcement chooses after extensive testing and consideration.”
Last year, the Supreme Court dodged a challenge to assault weapons bans in both New York and Connecticut.
“The sands are always shifting with the Supreme Court,” Democratic Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh told reporters. “I hope that this means they have reached a conclusion that they are not going to fiddle with assault weapons bans across the country.”
However, there are rumors of an impending vacancy coming to the high court which would mean another Supreme Court appointment for President Trump. The court is currently fairly evenly split with Justice Kennedy generally being the swing vote one way or the other. Another Trump appointee could give the court a push to the constitutional originalist side. Making future Second Amendment cases potentially more promising.