Federal Court Rules People Have 'Fundamental Right' To Own Military-Style Rifles


Maryland’s Firearm Safety Act of 2013 may be in peril after a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it must undergo “strict scrutiny.” The decision was made on Feb. 4.

The law was drafted in response to the 2012 Sandy Hook Massacre, when Adam Lanza shot and killed 26 school faculty and children in Newtown, Connecticut. Former Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland signed the legislation into law in 2013, The Huffington Post reports.

Among other things, the law placed a ban on a variety of 45 different assault weapons -- including AR-15s and AK-47s -- and placed a 10-round limit on gun magazines. Since its passing, the Firearm Safety Act has had its constitutionality challenged by gun owners, sellers and the National Rifle Association.

Two out of the three-judge panel now seem to agree. Chief Judge William Traxler wrote that the weapons ban “implicates the core protection of the Second Amendment -- the right of law-abiding responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home.”

“This case was a major victory for the NRA and gun rights advocates,” UCLA law professor Adam Winkler told The Huffington Post. “This opinion is an important one because it subjects important gun control laws to the most strict form of judicial scrutiny.”

The Maryland law has not been struck down and is will still be enforced. By recommending “strict scrutiny,” the ruling effectively passed the law down to a lower court and mandating that it be judged using a narrow definition of the law.

Democratic State Sen. Jamie Raskin of Montgomery, who had sponsored the bill in its infancy, told WAMU that “strict scrutiny” means that Maryland must prove that banning high-powered assault rifles is the only way to stop gun violence.

Raskin added that, with that criteria, Maryland’s Firearm Safety Act may be argued up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The three-judge panel also challenged Maryland’s assertion that “unusually dangerous” firearms should not be protected by the Second Amendment. The appeals court ruled that a firearm’s lethality doesn’t impact a citizen’s right to own them, according to WBAL.

The panel was not unanimous: Judge Robert King dissented and condemned the decision as enabling of mass shooters.

“Let’s be real: the assault weapons banned by Maryland’s FSA are exceptionally lethal weapons of war,” King wrote. “To put it mildly, it troubles me that … by ordering strict scrutiny here, we are impeding Maryland’s and others’ reasonable efforts to prevent the next Newtown -- or Virginia Tech, or Binghamton, or Fort Hood, or Tucson, or Aurora, or Oak Creek or San Bernardino.”

Sources: The Huffington Post, WAMU, WBAL / Photo credit: brian.ch/Flickr

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