On Monday, the Supreme Court, again eschewing the chance to issue a major ruling on gun rights, turned down a challenge to Maryland’s state ban on assault weapons brought by various groups, including the National Rifle Association.
In the case the Court declined to hear, Kolbe v. Hogan, a federal appeals court ruled that assault weapons, including the AR-15, were not protected by the Second Amendment. The appeals court used the Supreme Court’s 2008 Heller decision to buttress its own; the Heller decision included a line suggesting the M-16 rifle, a military version of the AR-15, could be banned by states and cities. The appeals court voted 10-4 for the ban; Judge Robert King wrote, "We have no power to extend Second Amendment protection to the weapons of war that the Heller decision explicitly excluded from such coverage.”
The ban in Maryland was a response to the 2012 Newtown, Connecticut shooting that left 20 children and six educators dead at an elementary school.
The Cato Institute, the National Sheriff’s Association, the Second Amendment Foundation, and the Independence Institute, supporting the petitioners in Kolbe, noted:
Maryland’s firearm and ammunition restrictions stem from a misunderstanding of firearms that are in common use by citizens and law enforcement agencies.
Most sheriffs and deputies carry semi-automatic handguns with magazines larger than 10 rounds that are banned in Maryland; many patrol vehicles carry a rifle that is banned in Maryland. Classifying typical sheriffs’ arms as “weapons of war” alienates the public from law enforcement. Among the many harmful consequences: when a deputy uses deadly force, people will say that he or she used a military weapon. This is inflammatory, and false.
Law-abiding Americans have always looked to law enforcement for guidance in defensive firearms selection, as they should. Law enforcement firearms are chosen because they are the most suitable arms for the defense of innocents. Citizens should be encouraged to choose the same reliable, accurate, life-saving arms that law enforcement chooses after extensive testing and consideration.
In 2016, the Supreme Court would not challenge assault weapon bans in New York and Connecticut.