Judge Rules ARs, AKs, to be ‘Dangerous and Unusual Arms’

U.S. Law Shield’s members should know that on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake ruled that AR-15s, AK-style rifles, and other similar firearms that were regulated by the state of Maryland last year “fall outside Second Amendment protection as dangerous and unusual arms.”

Blake’s decision came in the case of Kolbe v. O’Malley, in which plaintiffs Stephen V. Kolbe and others sued defendants Maryland Gov. Martin J. O’Malley and others requesting a judgment declaring the state’s Firearm Safety Act of 2013 unconstitutional. The Firearm Safety Act made it illegal after October 1, 2013, to possess, sell, offer to sell, transfer, purchase, or receive “assault pistols,” “assault long guns,” and “copycat weapons,” or taken together, “assault weapons” as described by the court.

In addition, the Act states that a person “may not manufacture, sell, offer for sale, purchase, receive, or transfer a detachable magazine that has a capacity of more than 10 rounds of ammunition for a firearm.” A person who violates the Act “is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 3 years or a fine not exceeding $5,000 or both,” although different penalties are provided for a person who uses an assault weapon or large-capacity magazine (LCM) in the commission of a felony or a crime of violence.

According to the 47-page decision, “Just days before the Firearm Safety Act was to go into effect, on September 26, 2013, the plaintiffs filed their complaint, followed the next day by a motion for a temporary restraining order (“TRO”), challenging the law’s constitutionality with respect to its ban on assault long guns, copycat weapons, and LCMs.” The court heard argument on the TRO on October 1, 2013, and decided that the plaintiffs did not show they were entitled to the extraordinary relief. Oral arguments on the case were held July 22, 2014.

The decision turned on Blake’s agreement with the state’s assertion that “assault weapons [sic] and LCMs are not commonly used and, in any event, are not useful or commonly used for self-defense.”

Blake wrote, “…the court seriously doubts that the banned assault long guns are commonly possessed for lawful purposes, particularly self-defense in the home, which is at the core of the Second Amendment right, and is inclined to find the weapons fall outside Second Amendment protection as dangerous and unusual.”

She continued in the decision, “First, the court is not persuaded that assault weapons are commonly possessed based on the absolute number of those weapons owned by the public. Even accepting that there are 8.2 million assault weapons in the civilian gun stock, as the plaintiffs claim, assault weapons represent no more than 3% of the current civilian gun stock, and ownership of those weapons is highly concentrated in less than 1% of the U.S. population.”

Further, on page 24, Blake opined, “Finally, despite the plaintiffs’ claims that they would like to use assault weapons for defensive purposes, assault weapons are military-style weapons designed for offensive use, and are equally, or possibly even more effective, in functioning and killing capacity as their fully automatic versions.”

Plaintiffs Stephen V. Kolbe and Andrew C. Turner had standing in the suit as individual gun-owning citizens of Maryland who faced a credible threat of prosecution under the Act.

Other plaintiffs were various associations of gun owners and advocates and companies in the business of selling firearms and magazines, including Wink’s Sporting Goods, Inc., Atlantic Guns, Inc., Associated Gun Clubs of Baltimore, Inc., Maryland Shall Issue, Inc., Maryland State Rifle and Pistol Association, Inc., National Shooting Sports Foundation, Inc., and Maryland Licensed Firearms Dealers Association, Inc.

[Note: Descriptions of firearms in the opinion are not descriptions used by Law Shield’s content team.]

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