Second Amendment

4th Circuit requires strict scrutiny of assault-weapons ban, says it's not 'a rubber stamp'

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A federal appeals court has ordered a Baltimore judge to apply strict scrutiny when evaluating Maryland’s ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

The Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Feb. 4 in a 2-1 decision (PDF), report, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal Law Blog. How Appealing links to additional coverage here and here.

Writing for the panel majority, Judge William Traxler Jr. said the law’s burden on Second Amendment rights was substantial and the lower-court judge had wrongly used intermediate scrutiny to evaluate the law.

Judge Robert King dissented. “To put it mildly, it troubles me that, by imprudently and unnecessarily breaking from our sister courts of appeals and ordering strict scrutiny here, we are impeding Maryland’s and others’ reasonable efforts to prevent the next Newtown—or Virginia Tech, or Binghamton, or Fort Hood, or Tucson, or Aurora, or Oak Creek, or San Bernardino,” he wrote.

Traxler responded to King’s point. “Our distinguished dissenting colleague asserts that we have imprudently and unnecessarily broken with our sister courts of appeal and infers that we will bear some responsibility for future mass shootings,” Traxler wrote. “In our view, inferences of this nature have no place in judicial opinions and we will not respond beyond noting this.

“The meaning of the Constitution does not depend on a popular vote of the circuits and it is neither improper nor imprudent for us to disagree with the other circuits addressing this issue. We are not a rubber stamp.”

Judge Robert King’s name corrected at 8:55 a.m.

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