Gun rights setback at Supreme Court

  • 1 December 2017
  • NormanL
Gun rights setback at Supreme Court

In a set back for gun rights advocates, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling that upheld a Maryland law banning high capacity magazines and several types of semi-automatic firearms:

The justices in the past have passed up the chance to hear challenges to similar laws in a handful of other states. But attorneys general in 21 states had asked the court to hear the Maryland case, and the National Rifle Association and other gun rights groups had joined the effort.

Maryland’s ban on “assault” weapons was passed after the 2012 mass shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school.

A district judge had cast doubt on the constitutionality of the law. But the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond upheld the ban in a 10-to-4 vote.

That court went further than other appellate courts that have reviewed similar laws, stating that “assault weapons and large-capacity magazines are not protected by the Second Amendment.”

The majority opinion, written by Judge Robert B. King, refers to the banned firearms as “weapons of war” that the court says are most useful in the military.

In a strongly worded dissent, Judge William B. Traxler Jr. said his colleagues have “gone to greater lengths than any other court to eviscerate the constitutionally guaranteed right to keep and bear arms.”

Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) on Monday said there was no reason for the Supreme Court to review the lower-court ruling.

“The Maryland Firearm Safety Act is a common-sense law,” Frosh said in a statement. “The Supreme Court’s denial of certiorari confirms the principle that states may protect their citizens and communities from the devastation of these weapons of war. . . . Assault weapons, which have resulted in the slaughter of hundreds of people in recent months, are not protected by the Second Amendment.”

Gun rights groups contend that the term “assault weapon” is propaganda and that Maryland’s ban outlaws some of the country’s most widely owned weapons.

The Court's decision, while not entirely surprising to those who pay close attention to its workings, comes as the House of Representatives advanced a bill for nationwide concealed carry reciprocity. While the Court appears to be letting challenges to its own precedents upholding the Second Amendment fester at the state and local level, Congress is taking state and local interference in the Second Amendment away.

Inevitably, there will be a reckoning between these two approaches...with gun rights hanging in the balance.