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Supreme Court Declines to Hear Challenge to Maryland Ban on Rifles Known as Assault Weapons

The Supreme Court on Monday declined, for now, to hear a challenge to a Maryland law banning certain semi-automatic firearms commonly referred to as assault weapons.

The court did not elaborate on the denial, as is typical. It would have been unusual for the justices to take up a case at this point, since a lower court is still weighing it. The Supreme Court is also considering an appeal over a similar law in Illinois. It did not act Monday on that case, which could be another avenue to take up the issue.

The Maryland plaintiffs, including gun rights groups, argued that semi-automatic weapons like the AR-15 are among the most popular firearms in the country and banning them runs afoul of the Second Amendment, especially after a landmark Supreme Court decision expanding gun rights in 2022. That ruling changed the test for evaluating whether gun laws are constitutional and has upended gun laws around the country.

Maryland’s attorney general pointed to mass shootings carried out using the weapons. The state argued they can be banned because they are “highly dangerous, military-style” weapons.

The law has a history before the Supreme Court: The justices declined to hear another challenge in 2017, before the solidification of its current conservative majority. Five years later, though, the high court’s current roster of justices ordered lower courts to take another look at the measure after handing down the 2022 ruling.

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals is still weighing the case, and Maryland argued the lower court should be able to issue a decision before an potential Supreme Court action. The plaintiffs, though, said the appeals court has taken too long, including an unusual move removing it from a three-judge panel and instead putting the case before the full circuit court.

Maryland passed the sweeping gun-control measure after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre that killed 20 children and six adults in Connecticut in 2012. It bans dozens of firearms commonly known as assault weapons and puts a 10-round limit on gun magazines.

Ten states and the District of Columbia now have laws often called assault weapons bans, according to the gun-control group Brady, which tracks the legislation.


3 Responses

  1. Very disappointing. The Maryland ban is flagrantly, brazenly defiant of the constitution, and the 4th circuit is deliberately sabotaging the case and dragging it out for the sole purpose of allowing the government to do as much damage as it can to fundamental civil liberties.

    The assertion that AR-15s are “highly dangerous” is an outright lie. So is the assertion that they are a “weapon of war”. A law banning them is no different from one banning Islam, and we all know such a law would have been overturned within ten minutes of it being passed.

  2. Why would the Supreme Court hear a case that hasn’t been heard by the Court of Appeals? The Supreme Court is the court of final appeals, so the first appeal needs to be complete.

    Note that the AR-15 is roughly 70 year old technology (similar to what Israel had in the Six-Day war in 1967), and no modern army would use a semi-automatic since automatic rifles were developed and are now standard in militaries.

  3. Milhouse: No case ever gets to the Supreme Court in ten minutes. Even if a life or death issue it takes weeks. Usually years. Regardless of “blue” or “red”, the American judiciary is “turtle” not “hare”.

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