A federal appeals court has upheld Maryland’s ban on semiautomatic guns with certain military-style features that the state passed after the 2012 mass shooting at a Newtown, Ct., elementary school, the Washington Post reports. The 10-to-4 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit overrules an earlier panel decision that cast doubt on the constitutionality of the ban that is similar to laws in seven states, including California, Connecticut and New Jersey. Yesterday’s ruling goes further than other appellate courts that have reviewed similar laws in stating clearly that “assault weapons and large-capacity magazines are not protected by the Second Amendment.” The majority opinion, by Judge Robert King, refers to the banned firearms as “weapons of war” that the court says are most useful in the military.
In a strongly worded dissent, Judge William Traxler Jr. said his colleagues have “gone to greater lengths than any other court to eviscerate the constitutionally guaranteed right to keep and bear arms.” he question for the court was how far the Maryland legislature could go to limit individual rights to gun ownership and what standard a federal district judge in Baltimore should have used to assess the law. Last February, a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit found that the Baltimore judge should have used a more stringent test: The bar should be higher for the state, the panel said, when the government passes a law that affects a right protected by the Constitution. The majority disagreed in yesterday’s opinion, siding with Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, who said the Second Amendment does not prevent legislators from passing measures designed to protect the public from gun violence.