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Maryland Court Says Assault Rifles Aren't Protected Under the Second Amendment

The 10–4 decision upholds the state ban on military-grade weapons, put in place after the Newtown elementary school shooting.

by Lauren Messman
Feb 22 2017, 6:30pm

Photo via Flickr user katesheets

A federal appeals court upheld Maryland's ban on 45 kinds of assault rifles Tuesday, ruling that the Second Amendment does not cover "weapons of war," NBC News reports.

The 10–4 decision upheld a 2013 state law that was passed in response to the Newtown elementary school shooting, in which the shooter killed 20 children with an assault rifle. The law puts a ten-round limit on gun magazines and bans the sale and ownership of multiple military-style weapons, including the popular AR-15, of which the NRA estimates there are between 5 and 10 million in circulation in the US.

"Put simply, we have no power to extend Second Amendment protections to weapons of war," Judge Robert King wrote. Citing Aurora, San Bernardino, and Orlando, he added, "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."

King also pointed out that the 2008 Supreme Court decision District of Columbia v. Heller, which protects an individual's right to lawfully own a firearm, explicitly excludes the coverage of assault rifles. NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker disagreed with that argument. 

"It is absurd to hold that the most popular rifle in America is not a protected 'arm' under the Second Amendment," she told NBC. "[The opinion] clearly ignores the Supreme Court's guidance from District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment protects arms that are 'in common use at the time for lawful purposes like self-defense.'"

Advocates for gun control, however, lauded the decision, and have called for the sweeping measure to be implemented in more states across the country. 

"Maryland's law needs to become a national model of evidence-based policies that will reduce gun violence," Elizabeth Banach, executive director of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, said of the decision. "[It's] overwhelming proof that reasonable measures to prevent gun violence are constitutional."