An en-banc panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a ban on so-called “assault weapons” in Maryland, with a 10-4 majority opinion stating that such firearms are not protected by the Second Amendment, a position that gun rights advocates consider “absurd.”
But dissenting Judge William Traxler, a George H.W. Bush appointee, countered that the majority “has gone to greater lengths than any other court to eviscerate the constitutionally guaranteed right to keep and bear arms,” Fox News reported.
The philosophical disagreement may underscore the contention by a growing number of people in the Second Amendment community that “elections matter.”
This argument may have to go to the U.S. Supreme Court, Patch News indicated, which has yet to rule on such questions as so-called “assault weapons” and “right-to-carry” outside the home. Second Amendment activists might consider it a foregone conclusion that semi-automatic modern sporting rifles (MSRs) – dubbed “assault weapons” in gun prohibition lobby rhetoric – are protected simply by the amendment’s language. Alluding to the necessity of a militia to protect a free state, at the time the amendment was written, militia members were expected to muster with their own firearms deemed suitable for militia service. In today’s world, that might easily be the MSR, which is owned by millions of private citizens.
Indeed, Jennifer Baker, spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association, said in a statement Tuesday, “It is absurd to hold that the most popular rifle in America is not a protected `arm’ under the Second Amendment.” She alluded to the 2008 Heller ruling that essentially said the Second Amendment applies to arms that are “in common use.”
The “weapons of war” phrase is part of the gun prohibition lexicon. However, as Liberty Park Press has previously reported, rifles of any kind – including semi-automatic MSRs – are used in a fraction of homicides in any given year, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report.
Fox News also reported that Elizabeth Banach, executive director of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, issued a statement supporting the court’s 10-4 ruling. She called the decision “overwhelming proof that reasonable measures to prevent gun violence are constitutional…Maryland’s law needs to become a national model of evidence-based policies that will reduce gun violence.”
By no small coincidence, bills aimed at either strictly regulating or outright banning so-called “assault weapons” did not pass out of committee at the Washington Legislature last week. The issue is not likely to go away until the high court issues a definitive ruling.