U.S. appeals court to rehear case on Maryland assault-weapon ban

by
March 5, 2016

The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit has agreed to rehear a case that could potentially deal a blow to a Maryland gun control law that bans assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh asked the full 15-member court to hear arguments en banc after a three-judge panel in February ruled that the ban “significantly burdens the exercise of the right to arm oneself at home.” The panel, in a 2-1 ruling, ordered that the case be sent back to the original district judge for reconsideration under stricter constitutional standards.

On Friday, the 4th Circuit issued an order granting the motion for the full hearing. Arguments are scheduled for May 11 at the court in Richmond.

Maryland’s ban was enacted in 2013 in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. It prohibits the sale or ownership of 45 types of military-style rifles, and of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

In the original appellate ruling, the court found that the U.S. Supreme Court established the precedent that individuals do have a fundamental right to own firearms and that Maryland’s law appears to be a ban on entire classifications of weapons. The court majority said laws that go that far must be subjected to the strictest scrutiny — which requires a law to be narrowly tailored and the least restrictive means to further a compelling government interest — something the lower court didn’t do.

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