Federal appeals court rules ‘assault rifles’ protected under 2nd Amendment


The ruling states that modern sporting rifles such as AR and AK platforms are not ‘unusual’ or especially dangerous and are, in fact, in common use in the United States as defensive weapons. The same argument applies to standard capacity magazines. These firearms are, therefore, protected under the Second Amendment for civilian use. It sent the lower court’s ruling back for reevaluation.

This is a big deal.

A Federal appeals court dealt a potentially serious blow to Maryland’s landmark 2013 gun control law and similar measures across the country, ruling Tuesday that a lower court was wrong when it upheld the state’s ban on assault rifles.

In a 2-1 decision applauded by gun rights advocates, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit concluded that the semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity magazines banned by Maryland’s Firearm Safety Act “are in common use by law-abiding citizens.” As a result, they don’t fall under the exception to the right to bear arms that applies to “unusual” weapons such as machine guns and hand grenades, the court said.

Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh said Thursday that the decision “conflicts sharply with rulings of other federal appellate courts.” Frosh said he would appeal — either to the full 15-member 4th Circuit or to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The lower court must now use “strict scrutiny” to uphold the Maryland law banning the rifles and magazines. This is a very difficult, but not impossible, hurdle for the court to jump. More to come.

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28 Responses to Federal appeals court rules ‘assault rifles’ protected under 2nd Amendment

  1. mr_bill says:

    Liberals just hate “assault rifles” because they’re black.

  2. C. L. says:

    I’m glad about the ruling, but, I went back and looked at the second amendment to see if I forgot something. It turns out that, no, there isn’t anything in there about only weapons commonly in use by law abiding citizens.

    • R.D. Walker says:

      The Supreme Court started down that path in the 1930s. They argued that the Founders guaranteed the right to keep and bear arms because the need for a militia required an armed citizenry.

      Therefore, they argued, the 2nd Amendment specifically protected the kind of arms that would be commonly held by citizens for use in the militia. This was the argument that ruled out sawed off shotguns. They are not weapons that would be useful in a militia.

      Please don’t hit me with obvious exceptions or the illogic of it. I am just telling you why it matters that the weapons be in common use according to the SCOTUS.

      • C. L. says:

        I understand, and knew that already. I was just being by cynical, snide self. What burns me up about the Supreme Court over the years is that they somehow think they should be looking at case law in the first place. It’s the Constitution you are supposed to weigh things against, dummies.

      • Bart says:

        The “in common use” part is a ruse and is pure bullsh!t. Thompson machine guns were “in common use” before the illegal act in 1934 requiring they be treated differently. This is only a partial victory. As long as they continue play on words like “in common use” we need to be ever vigilant. They are not to be trusted.

        • C. L. says:

          Hat tip to James Rawles for your comment. I agree. If the military ever adopts a completely new rifle for the troops, that new rifle will not be “in common use” for the people, and would be banned if that premise was allowed to stand.

  3. David says:

    A few Second Amendment Quotes
    “The right of the citizens to bear arms is just one more guarantee against arbitrary government, one more safeguard against tyranny which now appears remote in America, but which historically has proved to be always possible.”   Hubert Humphrey, Democrat, U.S Vice President
    “No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.”  Thomas Jefferson
    “Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act of depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest.”  Mahatma Gandhi
    “The totalitarian states can do great things, but there is one thing they cannot do: they cannot give the factory-worker a rifle and tell him to take it home and keep it in his bedroom. That rifle hanging on the wall of the working-class flat or labourer’s cottage, is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there.” – George Orwell
    “Clearly, there remains to this day a horrible, condescending attitude toward armed American citizens. Haven’t the British yet gotten over the fact that a ragtag, often disorganized force of American colonials, wielding their own arms, was able to defeat what at the time was the most powerful armed force in the world? Our forefathers, armed with their own flintlock rifles and pistols, and an assortment of muskets—the ‘assault weapons’ of their era—threw off the yoke of oppression under which they were forced to live. When British broadcasters today demand to know just what it is about gun ownership that Americans defend so vigorously, the answer is too simple for them to comprehend. Simply put, we defend this individual civil right because without our own guns two centuries ago, we would still… likely be British subjects…” – Alan Gottlieb
    “The right of a citizen to keep and bear arms has justly been considered the palladium of the liberties of the republic, since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of the rulers, and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.” – Supreme Court Justice, Joseph Story, 1833
    “In truth, a state that deprives its law-abiding citizens of the means to effectively defend themselves is not civilized but barbarous…revealing its totalitarian nature by its tacit admission that the disorganized, random havoc created by criminals is far less a threat than are men and women who believe themselves free and independent, and act accordingly.” – Jeffrey Snyder, A Nation of Cowards
    “Let a regular army, fully equal to the resources of the country, be formed; and let it be entirely at the devotion of the federal government; still it would not be going too far to say, that the State governments, with the people on their side, would be able to repel the danger. The highest number to which, according to the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any country, does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number of souls; or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This proportion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops. Those who are best acquainted with the last successful resistance of this country against the British arms will be most inclined to deny the possibility of it. Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms? – James Madison, The Federalist Papers, No. 46.
    “We ran into a pleasant interlude up in Vermont which emphasized the wisdom and social utility of the Vermont firearms laws. It seems that some foreigner from down below was in a supermarket when he observed one of the customers wearing a pistol openly. He got all flustered and immediately called 911. In due course a cop showed up and located the complainer, who pointed out the “culprit.” The cop agreed that the man really was carrying a pistol, and then he asked what the problem was. I suppose the poor fellow rushed off out the door and went back where he came from. Obviously the state of Vermont was too dangerous for him. – The Late Jeff Cooper, Jeff Cooper’s Commentaries, Vol. 6, No. 3, March 1998
    “It is one of the great ironies of our modern “civilized” era that in most of the places where you don’t feel the need to carry a firearm for self defense you can legally do so if you choose. But in most of places where you do indeed justifiably feel the immediate need to carry a gun, they are banned.” – James Wesley, Rawles
    “The rifle is a weapon. Let there be no mistake about that. It is a tool of power, and thus dependent completely upon the moral stature of its user. It is equally useful in securing meat for the table, destroying group enemies on the battlefield, and resisting tyranny. In fact, it is the only means of resisting tyranny, since a citizenry armed with rifles simply cannot be tyrannized. The rifle itself has no moral stature, since it has no will of its own. Naturally, it may be used by evil men for evil purposes, but there are more good men than evil, and while the latter cannot be persuaded to the path of righteousness by propaganda, they can certainly be corrected by good men with rifles.” – The Late Jeff Cooper, The Art of the Rifle
    “There exists a law, not written down anywhere, but inborn in our hearts; a law which comes to us not by training or custom or reading; a law which has come to us not from theory but from practice, not by instruction but by natural intuition. I refer to the law which lays it down that, if our lives are endangered by plots or violence or armed robbers or enemies, any and every method of protecting ourselves is morally right.” – Marcus Tulius Cicero (106-53 BC)
    “The notion that you can somehow defeat violence by submitting to it is simply a flight from fact. As I have said, it is only possible to people who have money and guns between themselves and reality.” – George Orwell, 1941
    “And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling in terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand? […] The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt!” – Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago (Chapter 1, “Arrest”)
    “How a politician stands on the Second Amendment tells you how he or she views you as an individual… as a trustworthy and productive citizen, or as part of an unruly crowd that needs to be lorded, controlled, supervised, and taken care of.” – Rep. Suzanna Gratia Hupp (Texas)
    “We maintain [privately-owned] arms largely because we seek to prevent violence. Those that wish to disarm us do so that they may perpetrate it with impunity.” – R. Murray
    “The gun control debate generally ignores the historical and philosophical underpinnings of the Second amendment. The Second amendment is not about hunting deer or keeping a pistol in your nightstand. It is not about protecting oneself against common criminals. It is about preventing tyranny. The Founders knew that unarmed citizens would never be able to overthrow a tyrannical government as they did. They envisioned government as a servant, not a master, of the American people. The muskets they used against the British Army were the assault rifles of that time. It is practical, rather than alarmist, to understand that unarmed citizens cannot be secure in their freedoms.” – Dr. Ron Paul
    “An armed republic submits less easily to the rule of one of its citizens than a republic armed by foreign forces. Rome and Sparta were for many centuries well armed and free. The Swiss are well armed and enjoy great freedom. Among other evils caused by being disarmed, it renders you contemptible. It is not reasonable to suppose that one who is armed will obey willingly one who is unarmed; or that any unarmed man will remain safe among armed servants.” – Niccolo Machiavelli, “The Prince” (1532)
    “… [M]any gun owners readily concede that their right to keep and bear arms is “not absolute” and is subject to “reasonable” regulation. This concession to moderation or reasonableness is fatal to the right. Yes, there are people who should not have guns. However, the point of the Second Amendment is precisely to deny government the power to decide who those people are, just as the point of the First Amendment is to deny government the power to decide what you may read and hear. Rights are not reasonable, and are not to be made reasonable, because government itself is not reason; it is force.” – Jeff Snyder

  4. Uke says:

    “… [M]any gun owners readily concede that their right to keep and bear arms is “not absolute” and is subject to “reasonable” regulation. This concession to moderation or reasonableness is fatal to the right. Yes, there are people who should not have guns. However, the point of the Second Amendment is precisely to deny government the power to decide who those people are, just as the point of the First Amendment is to deny government the power to decide what you may read and hear. Rights are not reasonable, and are not to be made reasonable, because government itself is not reason; it is force.” – Jeff Snyder

    Possibly my favorite of the bunch. Highlighted the best bit.

  5. Greg B says:

    What most forget, mortars, cannon, and ships of war were privately owned by individuals, not just governments at the time of our founding.

  6. MadBrad says:

    I was a co-defendant in the Federal case involving the largest single seizure of illegal firearms and explosives in U.S. History, a record that stands to this day. Roughly 60 days after we were in Federal prison we got a letter from the ATF stating that if we paid the back taxes for the permits that would have allowed us to legally own the weapons that they would give them back to us.


    They were offering to break their own Law. Sounds a lot like what they accuse people of doing under the “Gun Show Loophole”.

    Because they conspired to provide firearms to convicted Felons, they should immediately arrest themselves.

    • C. L. says:

      Seriously? You’re not making this up? Holy crap! That is very interesting. Are you permitted to own firearms now? I apologize if that sounds like a stupid question, but if the ATF was okay with it . . .

      • MadBrad says:

        I am prohibited by Law from owning, possessing or causing to be possessed, a Firearm.

        The ATF conspired to break Federal Law in an attempt to collect back taxes.

        No, I cannot make stuff like that up.

      • MadBrad says:

        Legal weapons that they seized in the case they either had to pay for or give them back. They gave them back.

        • MadBrad says:

          … and those weapons promptly vanished.

          • C. L. says:

            Fascinating. So, the”illegal” weapons would have been legal with the proper taxes and permits? That is such a crock that they can do that. You went to prison for owning the only things the Constitution specifically guarantees that you can own. This makes me want to swear and rant, but I’m trying to tone down my language here. I am sorry that happened to you.

            • R.D. Walker says:

              I am pretty sure most of these particular weapons would have remained illegal; both by type and how they came to be in the possession of the friend Brad was naively assisting.

              Am I correct, Brad?

              • MadBrad says:

                MOST of them were purchased legally as non-functional souvenir weapons that came back from Vietnam and made their way to local Flea Markets. Someone went to Afghanistan during the 80s and obtained all the parts required to make them functional as well as highly illegal (unless back taxes were paid). Other weapons were smuggled from another battlefield (Grenada) illegally. More weapons were stolen from foreign governments and smuggled into the U.S. I assume that it would be very difficult to pay taxes on weapons that were smuggled from abroad. The explosives and explosive devices (Mines, Grenades, Rockets, etc) were stolen from both the U.S. Army and the Soviet Red Army.

                I don’t know how those weapons could have been taxed and permitted but the ATF was willing to find a way… and then probably charge us with more crimes.

              • MadBrad says:

                They only wanted about $30K in back taxes.

                I wonder what the tax for a permit to own 155mm HEDP Howitzer Rounds was back then. I’m sure that it has since gone up in price.

              • C. L. says:

                I don’t have a problem with the weapons themselves, but I must admit that the stealing and smuggling bothers me. Thank you very much for being so forthcoming.

              • R.D. Walker says:

                “…and then probably charge us with more crimes.

                They absolutely would have charged you with more crimes. You would have never been allowed to posses the weapons.

  7. MadBrad says:

    C.L. I have no problem stealing from the Enemy or the smuggling of the weapons into the hands of those who are resisting the efforts of the ongoing domestic menace.

    I actually had no part in that end of it though. I became involved in the effort to get the primary offender out of having to spend the rest of his life in Federal Prison. I was successful in that endeavor.

    • C. L. says:

      You are the perfect example of why I have always believed that a person should not be deprived of any Constitutional rights after they have served their time. I don’t care what a person does. If they pay their debt to society in full, that should be the end of it. Your last was enigmatic.

      • C. L. says:

        As a rule, stealing and smuggling bother me, as I think they would anyone. In saying your last comment was enigmatic, I meant that I have an open mind and the right set of circumstances could change my opinion if I could see a legitimate purpose behind the activities. You don’t have to say anymore; it’s undoubtedly a sore spot best left in the past.

        • MadBrad says:

          I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world. I benefited from it greatly. I learned a lot.

          They wanted to put me away for 80 Years. I kept my mouth shut for the sake of a fellow Soldier, a lifelong friend whose children are my Godchildren. In the end they had to make a deal or lose their case. I got locked up for a Year and had a Probation Officer for an additional 3 Years. I got over bigtime.

          The biggest price that I had to pay was not being able to re-enlist after 9-11. Now I realize that whatever I may have contributed to the destruction of our enemies would have been made pointless. The American people elected an Enemy of the United States to command our armed forces. He has hobbled our military and supported our enemies, as any enemy of the United States would do given the opportunity that the American people gave Barack Obama.

          Now I realize that I never had to re-enlist in order to meet and destroy our enemies on the battlefield. They are coming into our Country daily. They intend to make battlefields of our communities, some already have.

          In the end there will be a lot of people wishing that the weapons seized by the government in our case were still in the hands of people like me and my co-defendants.