Calling them “weapons of war” that are “not protected by the Second Amendment,” a federal appeals court Tuesday upheld Maryland’s ban on semi-automatic guns with “certain military style features” passed by the state after the 2012 Newtown school massacre.
The 10-4 ruling casts aside a lower court decision that questioned the constitutionality of a law that is similar to ones in states like California, Connecticut and New Jersey.
But the wording goes much farther than the laws in those states, declaring that “assault weapons and large-capacity magazines are not protected by the Second Amendment, The Washington Post is reporting. 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.”
The law does not ban all long guns, rifles or semi-automatic rifles, but gun control regulations enjoy wide support in Maryland, a left-leaning state. They passed some of the nation’s toughest gun control laws in 2013.
Opponents have insisted to the court that the banned weapons are not military weapons and that these guns are used for target practice, hunting and self defense.
The court also found that Maryland lawmakers were justified in passing the ban in the interest of public safety because magazines holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition “enable shooters to inflict mass casualties while depriving victims and law enforcement officers of opportunities to escape or overwhelm the shooters while they reload their weapons.”
The four dissenting judges said the banned firearms are not “dangerous or unusual” and are used by millions of law-abiding Americans – in part because some of the military-style components increase accuracy and ergonomics.
“As long as the weapon chosen is one commonly possessed by the American people for lawful purposes — and the rifles at issue here most certainly are,” wrote Judge Traxler, who was joined by Judges Paul V. Niemeyer, Dennis W. Shedd and G. Steven Agee. “The state has very little say about whether its citizens should keep it in their homes for protection.”