U.S. Fourth Circuit - The FindLaw 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Important Assault Weapons and Magazine Capacity Law Battle in Md.

A landmark Second Amendment case is making its way through the Fourth Circuit, and once again, the state behind the restrictive law is Maryland. Two years ago, it was concealed carry. This year, the issue is the assault weapons ban and magazine capacity limit that went into effect courtesy of the Firearm Safety Act of 2013, a gun control law passed in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

As you might expect, the case has drawn attention from outside interest groups and amicus groups from all across the United States.

What's at Stake?

Maryland's Firearm Safety Act of 2013 is one of the strictest firearm control laws in the nation. The law bans the sale of assault weapons (specifically targeting AR-15 and AK-47 rifles), requires fingerprints and a license to buy a handgun, and limits magazines to 10 bullets, reports the Baltimore Sun.

The law also increased the amount of information about people with mental illnesses sent to a national database for background checks and bared gun ownership for people convicted of certain violent crimes but given probation before judgment.

District Court Upholds the Law

In August, U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Blake upheld the Firearm Safety Act, applying intermediate scrutiny to the law before concluding that "the court seriously doubts that the banned assault long guns are commonly possessed for lawful purposes, particularly self-defense in the home, which is at the core of the Second Amendment right, and is inclined to find the weapons fall outside Second Amendment protection as dangerous and unusual."

"In summary, the Firearm Safety Act of 2013, which represents the considered judgment of this State's legislature and its governor, seeks to address a serious risk of harm to law enforcement officers and the public from the greater power to injure and kill presented by assault weapons and large capacity magazines," she wrote. "The Act substantially serves the government's interest in protecting public safety, and it does so without significantly burdening what the Supreme Court has now explained is the core Second Amendment right of 'law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home.' Accordingly, the law is constitutional and will be upheld."

Amicus Briefs Pouring In

More than two dozen amicus briefs have been filed in the case already, all of which are listed on Michel and Associates' website (the firm that often represents gun plaintiffs in California cases).

One of those amicus briefs comes from twenty-one state attorneys general in opposition to Maryland's law.

Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, one of those who signed on to the brief, said it "violates citizens' rights to keep and bear arms protected by the Second Amendment," reports the Times-Picayune.

"These continuing and repeated assaults on our Second Amendment rights have got to stop," he said in a statement. "You know something is definitely wrong when legislatures continually try to criminalize the full exercise by Americans of their Second Amendment rights to protect themselves while at the same time decriminalize the possession and use of drugs."

Related Resources: