Update — On June 29, 2020, the 4th Circuit issued a favorable decision upholding Maryland’s trigger activator law, siding with the position argued in Giffords Law Center’s amicus brief.
Case Information: Maryland Shall Issue Inc. v. Hogan (4th Cir. amicus brief filed April 19, 2019).
At Issue: On October 1, 2017, a gunman armed with AR-15 assault rifles modified with “bump stocks” unleashed a torrent of gunfire on a crowd of concert-goers in Las Vegas, Nevada, killing 58 people, hitting 422 with gunshots, and injuring a total of 851 people. This horrifying event, the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, was enabled by the shooter’s use of bump stocks to evade federal restrictions on automatic weapons. After the federal government failed to act quickly enough to close this loophole, Maryland prohibited the possession and sale of bump stocks and other rapid fire trigger activators that let shooters mimic automatic fire with semiautomatic rifles. Following the enactment of this lifesaving legislation, plaintiffs filed this lawsuit arguing that Maryland’s rapid fire trigger activator ban constitutes a government “taking” of their property in violation of the Takings Clause of the Constitution.
Giffords Law Center’s Brief: Our amicus brief argues, first, that plaintiffs’ challenge to Maryland’s law is now moot to the extent they are challenging restrictions on bump stocks that have since been adopted at the federal level by the ATF. Second, to the extent plaintiffs seek to challenge Maryland’s restrictions on other dangerous trigger activators, including trigger cranks and hellfire triggers, we argue that plaintiffs’ unsupported Takings Clause argument is foreclosed by Supreme Court precedent demonstrating that governments may use their police powers to restrict the possession and use of dangerous products. By regulating rapid fire trigger activators, Maryland has not engaged in an unlawful “taking,” but has simply closed a loophole which allowed for a contravention of legitimate restrictions on automatic firearms, which are historically longstanding and have been repeatedly upheld as constitutional. Therefore, Maryland’s exercise of its police power in restricting the possession and use of rapid fire trigger activators does not implicate the Takings Clause at all.