Right Hooks

Fourth Circuit Rules Against Second Amendment

The appeals court upheld Maryland's ban on so-called "assault" rifles.

Political Editors · Feb. 22, 2017

If you’re a firm supporter of Second Amendment rights, then you may want to avoid living in Maryland. On Tuesday, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Maryland law banning so-called assault weapons and “high capacity” (read: standard capacity) magazines. The ruling reversed a lower court decision maintaining that the law violates the Second Amendment. The lower court was right.

In its ruling, the Fourth Circuit Court referenced District of Columbia v. Heller, in which the Supreme Court declared weapons that could be classified as “dangerous and unusual” do not fall under the protections of the Second Amendment. In other words, the Supreme Court ruled that fully automatic weapons fall outside the purview of the Second Amendment — or at least these firearms and magazines can be heavily regulated without running afoul of the Constitution. Never mind that the Armed Forces have never issued AR-15s.

For SCOTUS, the concern was primarily the function, not the form. The justices weighed it based on the type of firing system — semi-auto vs. fully automatic. The Fourth Circuit Court deliberately conflated this distinction. If it looks like a military grade weapon, then it must be one, seems to have been the “logic” employed by the erudite Fourth Circuit judges. The Maryland law also bans folding stocks, flash suppressors and grenade/flare launchers — items that may make a rifle look menacing but do not make it functionally any more dangerous or unusual. Besides, if semiautomatic rifles are “unusual,” then we don’t know what constitutes “usual.” The AR-15 is the most popular rifle type in America.

Judge William Traxler wrote in his blistering dissent, “The majority has gone to greater lengths than any other court to eviscerate the constitutionally guaranteed right to keep and bear arms.” They did this by inventing a new test: whether a weapon is “most useful in military service.” We hope this case makes it to the Supreme Court so the justices can finish what they started with Heller — that is, protect the Second Amendment. Until then, Maryland can trample constitutional freedom, and appellate courts will be left to defiantly dismantle Heller one ruling at a time.


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