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Supreme Court Shuts Down Appeal Against Maryland’s Controversial Ban on Assault-Style Rifles

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Supreme Court Shuts Down Appeal Against Maryland’s Controversial Ban on Assault-Style Rifles

Supreme Court Shuts Down Appeal Against Maryland’s Controversial Ban on Assault-Style Rifles

Source: Quora

For reasons yet unknown, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to keep mute over a suit challenging the ban on assault-style rifles in Maryland.

Concerned groups and Maryland residents who worried the ban would rob them of their constitutional right to bear arms brought the case to the apex court. But what happens from here?

Maryland’s Assault Rifle Ban

Source: Quora

Indeed, Maryland has frowned upon the ownership of assault weapons for more than ten years now. The state’s criminal code bans individuals from possessing, selling, offering to sell, transferring, purchasing, or receiving assault weapons in the state, barring several exceptions.

Breaking these laws can attract a prison sentence of up to three years and up to $5000 in fines.

What’s the Reason Behind It?

Source: Quora

Maryland began to clamp down more seriously on assault weapons after the unfortunate Sandy Hook school shooting on December 14, 2012. On that day, 20-year-old Adam Lanza targeted students and staff of Sandy Hook Elementary School, Connecticut, with a rifle, killing 28 persons in the process.

Maryland lawmakers and government officials wanted to make sure that at least such high-casualty shootings never occurred in the state.

Maryland’s Attorney General Defends the Ban

Source: Quora

One of the leading Maryland voices in favor of the clampdown on assault weapons is the state’s attorney general. The state’s chief law officer cited the massive danger these “highly dangerous, military-style” firearms could pose to the public when in the wrong hands.

In particular, the assault weapon that proponents of the law are most worried about is the AR-15.

The AR-15 is at the Center of the Controversy

Source: Quora

Amongst the numerous firearms affected by the ban, the AR-15 is probably the most prominent. Due to their popularity amongst gun owners, gun rights activists are suspicious that their proscription is a blatant affront to the Second Amendment.

The ban also represents a major setback to the gun rights advocacy that received a boost from a monumental Supreme Court pro-gun decision in 2022.

Illinois Also Faces a Similar Gun Rights Battle

Source: Quora

The Supreme Court doesn’t only have Maryland to worry about. Likewise, a gun rights tussle has reached its doorsteps from Illinois, where there is a move to effect restrictions on semi-automatic firearms.

In the same way, the Supreme Court has failed to act on the petition. Speculations are rife that the court is waiting for the verdict of the Appeal Court (which is presently considering the matter) before taking a decision.

In Which Direction is the Appeals Court Likely to Tilt?

Source: Quora

The Appeals Court is expected to favor the ban for several glaring reasons. First, court decisions have a historical tendency to sway toward the political leanings of the majority of judges.

Nine of the Fifteen members of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals are Democratic appointees likely to rule in favor of the ban.

A Republican-Appointed Judge Has Spoken in Favor of the Ban

Source: Quora

If there is yet another indication of the direction the Appeal’s Court judgment will face, then it’s the statement of U.S. Circuit Judge Harvie Wilkinson. Coincidentally, he is a Maryland judge and holds an opinion that differs from what most people expect from a Republican appointee.

He voiced skepticism that the Second Amendment bars states from placing a ban on assault rifles like the AR-15.

Have States Lost Their Powers to Choose What Guns Should Be Allowed?

Source: Quora

Judge Wilkinson doubts that they have. “The historical practice of firearms regulation has been whenever new technologies have arrived on the scene, the states have not been defenseless in the face of technological advances,” he reasoned.

On the other hand, to convince the courts that Maryland’s ban has extended beyond the limits of its regulatory powers, the petitioner will have to prove that the AR-15 and other assault weapons are in common use.

The “Common Use” Argument Could Be the Key Decider

Source: Quora

The petitioners in the case are resting heavily on the Supreme Court’s 2022 judgment in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen. According to the petitioner’s argument, the principle that paves the way for firearms regulation is the “common use principle.”

The principle holds that if a weapon isn’t dangerous, unusual, or in common use, it isn’t subject to a ban.

Gun Rights Advocates Have Decried the Slow Pace of the Appeal Court on the Matter

Source: Wikipedia

Antagonists of the Maryland ban have complained about the slow Appeals Court processes, which have made the case linger longer than expected. The plaintiffs have criticized the delay occasioned by shifting the case from a three-man panel to the entire bench.

Similarly, Maryland is eager to see the Appeals Court’s decision before the Supreme Court’s deliberation will attract even more public attention.

Maryland is Following the Steps of Other States

Source: Quora

The Maryland ban on high-caliber firearms isn’t the first. Other states have set the ball rolling. So far, ten states have restricted assault weapons, and the number is likely to swell.

The bans are a pushback from a large section of the nation, which is growing increasingly wary of gun violence. Of course, states with liberal governments take the lead in the efforts, as expected.

The Battle Between Rights and Safety

Source: Quora

As is abundantly evident, the two core arguments in the gun safety debate are rights and safety. While one side believes that protecting constitutional rights is more important, the other argues that safety should come first.

Ultimately, the way forward would seem to be a balance between the two opposing ideologies. Hopefully, the judiciary will help state laws arrive at that meeting point.