The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit has ruled that Americans have a “fundamental right” to so-called assault weapons, a major victory for gun rights. A three judge panel ruled that Maryland’s Firearm Safety Act of 2013, ban against what the court called “the vast majority of semi-automatic rifles commonly kept by several million American citizens”, is a blunt violation of the Second Amendment to the Constitution.
“This case was a major victory for the NRA and gun rights advocates.”
Adam Winkler, UCLA law professor
“In our view, Maryland law implicates the core protection of the Second Amendment — the right of law-abiding responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home,” Chief Judge William Traxler wrote in the divided ruling.
In his ruling, Judge Traxler sent the case back to the District Court for review, demanding they apply “strict scrutiny” – a stringent constitutional test that almost no gun control legislation can survive.
“This case was a major victory for the NRA and gun rights advocates,” said Adam Winkler, a law professor at UCLA who specializes in Second Amendment law. “This opinion is an important one because it subjects important gun control laws to the most strict form of judicial scrutiny.”
While the Supreme Court has not yet weighed in on these cases, Justice Clarence Thomas has complained that the Second Amendment was being relegated to “a second-class right.”
“If a broad ban on firearms can be upheld based on conjecture that the public might feel safer (while being no safer at all), then the Second Amendment guarantees nothing,” he wrote, and added that those earlier decisions enshrining the right to gun ownership shouldn’t be expected to “clarify the entire field.”
You can read the full ruling here (PDF link).