In a victory for gun safety, a U.S. District Court on Tuesday, August 12 upheld all aspects of Maryland’s Firearm Safety Act of 2013. The law, enacted in the wake of the devastating shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, prohibits certain assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines (“LCAMs”). Plaintiffs in the case, individual gun owners as well as a number of pro-gun organizations, argued unsuccessfully that the Act violates the Second Amendment. With its decision, the District Court in Kolbe v. O’Malley joins an ever-growing number of courts that have unanimously upheld laws around the country prohibiting dangerous, military-style assault weapons and LCAMs.
In reviewing the law, the court first asked whether assault weapons and LCAMs (magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds) fall within the scope of the Second Amendment, which does not protect “dangerous and unusual weapons,” but only those “typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes.” The court noted that assault weapons “represent no more than 3% of the current civilian gun stock, and ownership of those weapons is highly concentrated in less than 1% of the U.S. population.” Moreover, assault weapons “are used disproportionately” in both mass shootings and attacks on law enforcement officers and “cause more injuries and more fatalities when they are used.” Given this evidence, the court expressed its “serious doubts that the banned assault long guns are commonly possessed for lawful purposes” and was “inclined to find” that such weapons fall outside the Second Amendment as dangerous and unusual.
A final ruling on that question was not issued, however, because the court found the entire Act to easily survive constitutional review. In holding that the Act only minimally burdens the Second Amendment, the court pointed out that the law “does not seriously impact a person’s ability to defend himself in the home…[i]n fact, the plaintiffs can point to no instance where assault weapons or LCAMs were used or useful in an instance of self-defense in Maryland.” The court also noted persuasive evidence showing that “assault weapons have several military-style features which make them especially dangerous to law enforcement and civilians,” and that LCAMs are used disproportionately in mass shootings and in the killing of law enforcement officers. Given these facts, the court concluded that the Act “substantially serves the government’s interest in protecting public safety, and it does so without significantly burdening” the Second Amendment right of “law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home.”
This case is part of an overall trend in courts across the nation, where the vast majority of challenges to common sense gun regulations are rejected. In over 900 decisions tracked by the Law Center, approximately 96% of Second Amendment challenges were rejected—further proof that sensible firearm regulations are totally compatible with the Second Amendment.
For more, visit our overview of Maryland’s gun laws or read about limits on assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines in states across the country.