In February, the Fourth Circuit upheld Maryland’s ban on so-called “assault weapons” in Kolbe v. Hogan. The law targeted firearms by name and by reference to cosmetic features (pistol grips, flash suppressors, etc.), and the ability to accept magazines that hold more than 10 cartridges. The broad proscription outlawed many of America’s most popular sporting arms, including AR-pattern rifles.
While few were surprised the Fourth Circuit upheld Maryland’s desire to restrict its citizens’ right to bear arms, it chose to do so by ignoring Supreme Court precedent. The 2008 case of DC v. Heller held that weapons “in common use at the time for lawful purposes” were protected by the Second Amendment.
Instead of following clear guidance protecting the common and wildly popular firearms encompassed in Maryland’s ban, the Fourth Circuit found the weapons unprotected, despite their common and lawful use, because of cosmetic similarity to military rifles. The Fourth Circuit’s wild departure in Kolbe may be what finally forces the Supreme Court to rule on state “assault weapon” regulations once and for all.
by Matthew Larosiere