Assault rifles are not protected under the Second Amendment, a federal appeals court in Maryland ruled Tuesday, upholding the state’s ban.
The judgment, concerning the questioned constitutionality of the Firearm Safety Act of 2013, was decided by a vote of 10 to 4 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The law had been introduced following the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.
“Put simply, we have no power to extend Second Amendment protection to the weapons of war,” Judge Robert King reportedly said, referring to “military-style rifles.”
The judge recalled the mass shootings in San Bernardino, California, and Orlando, Florida, as “places whose names have become synonymous with the slaughters that occurred there.” In both of those tragedies, semi-automatic assault rifles were used by perpetrators against innocent civilians.
King went on to note that a 2008 Supreme Court case excluded coverage of the high-powered weapons. By a decision of 5 to 4, the Supreme Court protected a citizen’s right to possess a firearm for traditionally lawful purposes, including self-defense within the home.
Following incidents like those in Newtown, San Bernardino, and Orlando, and given that gun regulation legislation generally fails the test of Congress, some states have enacted their own restrictions. There are seven states that currently ban semiautomatic assault rifles.
The state-level bans have been subject to multiple challenges, based on Second Amendment constitutional grounds. On four occasions, these challenges have been thwarted by appeals courts.