HOTAIR — While it’s not a done deal yet, there’s a good chance that we may finally be receiving a final decision from the Supreme Court on the question of so called “assault weapons” bans. Back in December, gun rights activists were largely disappointed when SCOTUS decided they would not hear an appeal to Illinois’ assault weapons ban, allowing a lower court ruling in favor of the law to stand. At the time, I speculated that they were waiting for more lower courts to weigh in on similar challenges around the country to see if there was some sort of consensus or if the states were divided and in need of clarification from above.
This week that question may have been answered. The 4th Circuit, hearing a Maryland case, went the other way, overturning a ban on AR-15 style rifles and expanded capacity magazines. (Baltimore Sun)
In a 2-1 decision applauded by gun rights advocates, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit concluded that the semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity magazines banned by Maryland’s Firearm Safety Act “are in common use by law-abiding citizens.” As a result, they don’t fall under the exception to the right to bear arms that applies to “unusual” weapons such as machine guns and hand grenades, the court said.
This apparent contradiction between the 7th Circuit Court’s ruling in Friedman v. City of Highland Park and the 4th’s ruling in Maryland has likely provided enough contrast for the Supremes to take up the question. This, as you might imagine, has liberal gun rights opponents in a state of panic, as a ruling agreeing with the rationale cited by the 4th Circuit Court would essentially kill off any similar rifle bans around the nation. That sense of distress shows up in this piece from Dahlia Lithwick at Slate. (Emphasis added)
The ruling sets the wheels in motion for another major gun fight at the high court. It will now likely have to answer this question: In a country where one bloody massacre seems to follow another, and 33,636 people were killed by firearms in 2013, does the court want to be in the business of handing out AR-15s like so much Halloween candy?