U.S. top court spurns challenge to
Maryland assault weapons ban
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[November 28, 2017]
By Andrew Chung
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme
Court dealt a setback on Monday to gun rights proponents including the
National Rifle Association, refusing to hear a challenge to Maryland's
2013 state ban on assault weapons enacted after a Connecticut school
The court turned away an appeal by several Maryland residents, firearms
dealers and the state NRA association, who argued that the ban violated
their right to keep and bear arms under the U.S. Constitution's Second
Amendment. The conservative-majority court on Monday also declined to
hear a challenge to Florida's ban on openly carrying firearms.
The justices, who have avoided major gun cases for seven years,
sidestepped the roiling national debate over the availability of
military-style guns to the public.
The case focused on weapons that have become a recurring feature in U.S.
mass shootings including the Nov. 5 attack at a Texas church that killed
26 people, the Oct. 1 attack at a Las Vegas concert that killed 58
people, and the 2012 massacre of 20 schoolchildren and six adults at
Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, which prompted
Assault weapons are popular among gun enthusiasts.
The challengers, who had sued Maryland's governor and other officials in
2013, appealed a February ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals in Richmond, Virginia that upheld the state's law. The 4th
Circuit said it had no power to extend constitutional protections to
"weapons of war," and it found little evidence such guns were
well-suited for self-defense.
Maryland's ban outlaws "assault long guns," mostly semi-automatic rifles
such as the AR-15 and AK-47, as well as large-capacity magazines, which
prevent the need for frequent reloading.
Backed by the influential NRA gun lobby, the plaintiffs said in a court
filing that semi-automatic rifles are in common use and that law-abiding
citizens should not be deprived of them.
"The sands are always shifting with the Supreme Court," Democratic
Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said. "I hope that this means they
have reached a conclusion that they are not going to fiddle with assault
weapons bans across the country."
The Supreme Court last year left in place assault weapons bans in New
York and Connecticut.
"It's inexplicable to me that people would allow the use of assault
weapons when they see the carnage that has been inflicted on innocent
victims around the country," Frosh added.
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U.S. Supreme Court is seen in Washington, U.S., November 27, 2017.
The Court, which has avoided major gun cases for seven years, on
Monday declined to hear a challenge backed by the National Rifle
Association to Maryland's 2013 state ban on assault weapons enacted
after a Connecticut school massacre. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
The NRA's Institute for Legislative Action took issue with the
court's refusal to hear the appeal, saying in a statement that a
2008 ruling by the justices "clearly stated that arms in common use
for lawful purposes are protected by the Second Amendment and thus
cannot be subject to an outright ban."
"We will continue fighting to ensure that the Second Amendment
freedoms of law-abiding Americans are respected in the courts," the
In recent years, the Supreme Court has repeatedly refused to second
guess lower court decisions upholding state and local restrictions
on assault weapons, which filled a void after a federal ban on these
firearms expired in 2004.
Its last major firearms rulings were in 2008, finding for the first
time that the Second Amendment protected an individual's right to
gun ownership under federal law, specifically to keep a handgun at
home for self-defense, and in 2010, when it found that right applied
to state and local laws as well.
Since then, gun rights advocates have been probing how far those
rights extend, including the types of guns and where they can be
In the Florida case, defendant Dale Lee Norman, who had a permit to
carry a concealed weapon, was convicted of openly carrying a handgun
in 2012 near his home in Fort Pierce, Florida. The Florida Supreme
Court in March rejected Norman's challenge to the so-called
open-carry ban, saying it did not violate his right to bear arms,
and the U.S. high court refused to take up his appeal.
(Reporting by Andrew Chung; Additional reporting by Lawrence Hurley;
Editing by Will Dunham)
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