In 2008, the Supreme Court made a landmark decision on the Second Amendment. In District of Columbia v. Heller, the court reaffirmed that individuals have the right to own firearms for lawful purposes such as self-defense. Since then, the Supreme Court has been reluctant to take on new cases regarding the Second Amendment.
However, in the absence of the Supreme Court’s willingness to take on Second Amendment cases, lower courts have decided to fill the void. Unfortunately, that hasn’t always meant good things for our gun rights. In fact, the recent Fourth Circuit Court decision on the Maryland assault weapons ban could put ALL gun rights in danger.
A federal appeals court in Maryland ruled Tuesday that semi-automatic rifles, commonly referred to as “military-style assault weapons,” are not protected under the Second Amendment.
The ruling came after the state’s so-called “assault weapons” ban was challenged on constitutional grounds. However, the court easily upheld the ban with a 10-4 vote.
Maryland’s gun ban also outlaws magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds.
Of course, activist judges ignoring the Constitution will come as a surprise to nobody. However, it is the reasoning behind the ruling that should have gun owners concerned:
Judge Robert King reportedly referred to the banned rifles as “weapons of war,” and cited recent mass shootings in his ruling:
“Put simply, we have no power to extend Second Amendment protection to the weapons of war.
Both before and after Newtown, similar military-style rifles and detachable magazines have been used to perpetrate mass shootings in places whose names have become synonymous with the slaughters that occurred there.”
While the mass shootings King refers to are no doubt tragic, his job is not to take it upon himself to solve the issue. King’s job is to determine whether or not the law he was reviewing was Constitutional, not whether or not he believes it would help to prevent a tragic event.
Sadly, King decided to legislate from the bench. More concerning, their decision fundamentally rewrites the Heller ruling:
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.”
Evidently, the 10 judges have never read the Heller ruling, because it says nothing of the sort. However, rewriting Heller in this way puts every weapon in danger. After all, any weapon could be “useful in military service.”
When the founders ratified the Bill of Rights, they were pretty clear in their language that an individual’s right to bear arms isn’t limited in this way. At the time, muskets were the most common weapon available, yet they were also most useful in connection with military service. According to the Fourth Circuit, the founders would have condoned restricting one’s right to own a musket. Clearly, that wouldn’t have been the case.
Although many gun owners fear liberal politicians, our Second Amendment rights are even more threatened by activist judges. It is the judiciary that wants to fundamentally change what the Constitution means, and that’s a scary reality.
[Note: This post was authored by Michael Lee. Follow him on Twitter @UAMichaelLee]