Constitutional Law

Full appeals court considers Maryland's assault weapons ban

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An en banc federal appeals court on Wednesday considered what standard judges should use to evaluate Maryland’s ban on 45 assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

Maryland Assistant Attorney General Matthew Fader argued that state lawmakers had the authority to act after determining that assault weapons are disproportionately used in mass shootings and killings of police officers, the Washington Post and the Associated Press report.

The lawyer for gun-rights supporters, John Parker Sweeney, argued the law violated the Second Amendment by banning “protected firearms from the homes of law-abiding citizens.” And Fader acknowledged that handguns—not assault weapons—are used in 95 percent of crimes.

The full appeals court was considering the case after a three-judge 4th Circuit panel ruled in February that the law should be evaluated under a strict-scrutiny standard.

During the arguments, Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III remarked that the legislature had the power to restrict types of guns that were used for “offense” in mass shootings rather than self-defense. “Your position is so broad,” Wilkinson told Sweeney, “that it comes to a point of disabling legislatures from their core function of protecting citizens.”

The case is Kolbe v. Hogan.

How Appealing links to the coverage and to the recorded arguments before the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Wall Street Journal Law Blog has a preview of the case.

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