Appeals Court Says AR-15s Are Not Constitutionally Protected
Sorry, NRA: the Second Amendment does not guarantee a right to assault weapons.
This federal appellate court decision is significant for several reasons. One, the decision itself: the AR-15 assault weapon is not constitutionally protected. Two, other semiautomatic assault weapons are probably also not protected, if the reviewing court applies the standard applied by the 4th Circuit in this opinion. Three, the court that issued the opinion is known to be conservative. Four, the opinion is clear, with no room to legitimately find wiggle room or support for a a “yeah, but….” outburst from the right.
We have to remind ourselves that the constitutional checks and balances include the judicial branch. Sometimes we don’t agree with the judges, sometimes they piss us off, and sometimes we’re pleased. But the judicial system presents, right now, the most likely source of resistance to an out-of-control executive branch and a gutless, spiteful, vindictive, destructive legislative branch.
Another example emerged today of the judicial system stepping. A federal judge in Texas has temporarily blocked the state from removing Medicaid funds from Planned Parenthood, at least until an underlying lawsuit is settled.
See, it works. (Sometimes not so much, such as when Bush became president instead of Gore.)
AR-15s and other assault weapons with large magazines are not protected by the Second Amendment and can be lawfully banned, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday.
The federal appeals court – based in Richmond, Virginia, and known for its conservative bent – upheld a Maryland prohibition of assault weapons in unvarnished language, writing that “the banned assault weapons and large-capacity magazines are not constitutionally protected arms.”
The Fourth Circuit ruling re-affirms previous court decisions that also placed assault weapons outside the scope of Second Amendment protections of gun ownership. But this ruling – decided 10-4 – goes further by addressing the AR-15 by name, tracing the weapon’s military pedigree from the M-16 rifle and finding that the AR-15 can be banned based on the plain language of the Supreme Court’s infamous Heller decision. (That ruling, written by the late activist conservative justice Antonin Scalia, discovered a constitutional right for individual gun ownership.)
The Heller Court had ruled that “weapons that are most useful in military service – M-16 rifles and the like – may be banned.” The Fourth Circuit picks up that language and runs with it, judging that the semiautomatic AR-15 retains key military characteristics that make the M-16 a “devastating and lethal weapon of war” and that the AR-15 can likewise be banned. “Simply put,” the Court ruled, “AR-15-type rifles are ‘like’ M16 rifles under any standard definition of that term.”