In what has to be viewed as a major victory for gun owners, the United States Court of Appeals for 4th Circuit ruled that lower court judge in Kolbe V. Maryland must apply the standard of strict scrutiny in reviewing the case about Maryland’s “assault weapon” ban, duplicitously called the Firearms Safety Act (FSA).
Laws banning “assault weapons” in Maryland and in other states with “anti-gun” legislatures have typically been upheld when lower court judges—almost universally gun-hating activist liberals—have cheated We, The People by applying the much lower standard of intermediate scrutiny.
I think my friend Andrew Branca explains it much better than I could.
In 2013, Maryland enacted its Firearms Safety Act (FSA). With its passage, effectively banning its residents from owning any of the large majority of semi-automatic rifles owned by American citizens (exceptions were made for retired law enforcement officers). The FSA also imposed other restrictions, such as banning certain standard-capacity magazines.
Such laws are common in blue states, of course, and when challenged in the Federal courts on the grounds that they violate the Second Amendment they are typically subject only to intermediate (or lesser) scrutiny. Generally speaking, if the State can articulate virtually any purportedly reasonable basis for the gun law, it survives scrutiny. Merely uttering the words “public safety” is usually sufficient for this purpose.
Of course, normally laws that arguably infringe an enumerated Constitutional rights are not subject to mere intermediate scrutiny, but rather they are subject to strict scrutiny. To survive strict scrutiny the law must advance not merely any governmental interest, but in particular a compelling governmental interest. It is perhaps arguable that “public safety” would serve to meet this requirement. In addition, however, the law must also be narrowly tailored to actually achieve that interest. It is this second requirement that almost invariably leads to the law in question being found to be unconstitutional.
In a nutshell, then, if intermediate scrutiny is applied to almost any law, the law survives. If strict scrutiny is applied to almost any law, the law falls.
Chris W. Cox, the executive director of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action, seems thrilled with the result.
“The Fourth Circuit’s ruling is an important victory for the Second Amendment. Maryland’s ban on commonly owned firearms and magazines clearly violates our fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms for self-defense. The highest level of judicial scrutiny should apply when governments try to restrict our Second Amendment freedoms.”
The National Shooting Sports Foundation one of the plaintiffs in the case, was similarly pleased.
“We are greatly heartened by the Fourth Circuit panel’s ruling today,” said Lawrence G. Keane, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), one of the lead plaintiffs in this case. “As this important case goes forward, NSSF will continue to work with our co-plaintiffs to ensure that our citizens’ Second Amendment rights are protected and that the lawful commerce in firearms is restored in support of this constitutional protection.”
If the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals decision stands (it will almost certainly be appealed) and the courts hold that strict scrutiny should apply to Second Amendment cases as they do every other law restricting constitutional rights, then most of the gun control laws in the United States will eventually fall like dominoes.
Keep your fingers crossed, folks.