On February 21, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to undermine Second Amendment rights. In a 10-4 decision, the court upheld Maryland's ban both on "assault weapons" and "high capacity magazines," At the same time, it undermined the Supreme Court's controlling opinion in the landmark case District of Columbia v. Heller that not only upheld the individual right to keep and bear arms, but also created tests to determine the legality of the firearms one can purchase.
The court created a standard that determines the legality of a firearm by whether it could be deemed as "useful in military service." Charles C.W. Cooke explains the issue with this test:
In effect, this “test” is designed to permit judges to determine that any weapon they might dislike is unprotected by the Second Amendment and can therefore be prohibited with impunity. Forget that Heller contains its own explicit tests. Forget the “common use” standard. Forget “dangerous and unusual.” There’s a new kid in town, and he’s coming for your rifles.
The dissenting opinion challenged the majority's "useful in military service" test by using historical context. "[A] settler’s musket, the only weapon he would likely own and bring to militia service, would be most useful in military service — undoubtedly a weapon of war — and therefore not protected by the Second Amendment." The majority's opinion suggests that the Founders did not want to have military-style weapons in the hands of the people; in this interpretation, Americans would not have been able to possess muskets that served a dual purpose to defend against the redcoats, or intruders on their property, as well as put food on the table.
The majority of the court devoted part of their opinion to comparing the civilian, semi-automatic AR-15 with the fully automatic, US military issued M-16. As National Review's David French writes:
In discussing the civilian, semi-automatic AR-15, the court comprehensively described the history of the military, fully automatic weapon that became the M-16 (and also the lighter and shorter M-4). Then, attempting to equate the M-16 and the AR-15, it published this spit-out-your-coffee sentence: “Semiautomatic weapons can be fired at rates of 300 to 500 rounds per minute, making them virtually indistinguishable in practical effect from machineguns.”
The word “rates” does a lot of work in that sentence. Yes, a person can pull the trigger very quickly on a semi-auto rifle (of any type) for a very short time. No, you cannot send 300 to 500 rounds downrange in one minute. You can’t even do it with an M-16 in burst mode.
In addition, the Fourth Circuit argued that because an AR-15 is similar to an M-16 and the latter is "useful in military service," then semi-automatic civilian firearms like the AR-15 should not be purchased. This is dangerous. The left's false equivalencies between such firearms creates a situation where the Second Amendment cannot be invoked to justify purchasing firearms that could be used to defend Americans from serious crimes like mass shootings and gang violence.
Let’s put this as plainly as possible. This court has determined that your right to self-defense is limited to the use of weapons less effective than those used in the most notorious massacres. In other words, criminals define your rights. Whatever gun they choose to use in the rarest of crimes, you’re going to have to settle for less, even if the criminal retains broad and easy access to superior firepower. After all, the Fourth Circuit, in its infinite gun wisdom, has determined that no one has “needed to fire more than ten rounds” to protect himself.
In conclusion, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals proactively threw out the standing opinion of the Second Amendment that the late Justice Antonin Scalia correctly defended in Heller. The left's assault on individual gun rights through shoddy lawfare continues to play out while Neil Gorsuch's confirmation looms in the horizon. Their propaganda is only one grant of certiorari away from reaching the Supreme Court once more.
It is on us to call out such abuses of the judicial branch and defend the Constitution.