A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that assault rifles and other so-called “weapons of war” are not protected under the Second Amendment.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit decision upheld Maryland’s ban on assault rifles, which was passed in 2013 in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Connecticut. It cited a 2008 Supreme Court case, Heller v. District of Columbia, which said that weapons “most useful in military service” are not covered by the Constitution.
“We are convinced that the banned assault weapons and large-capacity magazines are among those arms that are ‘like’ M-16 rifles — ‘weapons that are most useful in military service’ — which the Heller Court singled out as being beyond the Second Amendment’s reach,” Judge Robert King wrote for the 10-4 decision.
“Put simply, we have no power to extend Second Amendment protection to the weapons of war that the Heller decision explicitly excluded from such coverage.”
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Citing the Heller case, King wrote that assault rifles are “devastating weapons of war whose only legitimate purpose is to lay waste to a battlefield full of combatants.”
“The majority concludes that the semiautomatic rifles banned by Maryland law are most useful in military service, even though they are not in regular use by any military force, including the United States Army,” the decision said.
A federal appeals court has ruled against Constitutional protections for assault rifles.
It noted that such weapons have also been used for recent mass shootings in Aurora, Colo., San Bernardino, Calif., and Orlando, Fla. — making those cities “synonymous with the slaughters that occurred there.”
Only seven states — California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York — and the District of Columbia have laws banning the sale or ownership of assault rifles.
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This case started after two Maryland gun owners, along with several gun shops and gun-rights groups, sued to strike down the Maryland law. The Tuesday ruling reverses a previous Fourth Circuit panel decision that said the Maryland law violated Second Amendment rights.
U.S. Circuit Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson, an appointee under President Ronald Reagan, wrote his own argument agreeing with the new ruling and scolding America’s lawmakers for not taking similar action.
“To say in the wake of so many mass shootings in so many localities across this country that the people themselves are now to be rendered newly powerless, that all they can do is stand by and watch as federal courts design their destiny — this would deliver a body blow to democracy as we have known it since the very founding of this nation,” Wilkinson wrote.