In a turn of events that might inspire greater faith in the judiciary system of America, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia voted that 45 assault rifles are not protected under the second amendment.
The ruling, which was decided by a vote of 10-4, identifies that the banned assault weapons are “weapons that are most useful in military service.” They referenced the Heller Court’s ruling, which identifies that weapons of war do not fall under Second Amendment rights.
The case was initially brought to the courts due to a variety of individual gun owners and gun shop owners coming together to argue against the ban.
Judge King writes of the verdict that:
‘Put simply, we have no power to extend Second Amendment protection to the weapons of war that the Heller decision explicitly excluded from such coverage.’
Further demonstrating the national significance of the decision, is the full participation of all of the court’s judges in the ruling.
U.S. Court Circuit Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson shares similar sentiments to Judge King, stating:
‘To say in the wake of so many mass shootings in so many localities across this country that the people themselves are now to be rendered newly powerless, that all they can do is stand by and watch as federal courts design their destiny ― this would deliver a body blow to democracy as we have known it since the very founding of this nation.’
The National Rifle Association (NRA), not surprisingly, is less than pleased with the decision.
Jennifer Baker, a spokeswoman for the association asserted that:
‘It is absurd to hold that the most popular rifle in America is not a protected “arm” under the Second Amendment.’
She claims there are between 5 and 10 million AR-15s are in circulation nationwide for “lawful purposes.” The AR-15s however — one of the banned assault weapons under the upheld ban — and semi-automatics like it, have been used to perpetrate 14 recent mass shootings. Included in that list of 14, are the Orlando Nightclub shooting of 2016, and the 2012 Aurora, CO mass shooting inside a movie theater. Also included in the Maryland ban upheld by the court, are magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds.
Seven States and the District of Colombia presently have bans eliminating the right to have semi-automatic assault weapons. When questioned about whether or not the NRA would appeal, Baker said they are considering all of their options.
If the NRA decided to move forward with an appeal, the decision would be left to the Supreme Court. Four of the Supreme Court justices would need to review the ruling, in that case. The Supreme Court has, however, been reluctant to review these types of decisions. In June, the Court dismissed the review of a Connecticut assault weapons ban, which was also enacted following Sandy Hook.
It isn’t any secret that the United States has some of the most permissive gun rights in the world. Which, among other factors, contributes to the amount of gun violence– the epidemic, if you will, which America is facing.
Despite that, President Donald Trump is well known as being a staunch advocate of Americans’ right to bear arms, even assault weapons and the like, so it will be particularly interesting to see how he and his administration respond to this decision.
Feature Image via Getty Images/Joshua Lott.