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Justice

Md. semi-automatic weapons ban in jeopardy after Supreme Court ruling

Photo by Getty Images via WTOP News.

By Luke Lukert

Maryland’s laws prohibiting many semi-automatic rifles, including some AR- and AK-style weapons, could be in jeopardy.

Federal judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit are weighing arguments between a plaintiff representing a group of Maryland gun owners and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh (D) over whether the state’s current gun laws are unconstitutional in light of a recent Supreme Court ruling.

The case now hinges on whether these semi-automatic rifles are “in common use for self-defense today,” as claimed by the plaintiffs.

The Fourth Circuit heard around 45 minutes of oral arguments for the case Dominic Bianchi v. Brian Frosh last week.

“Law abiding citizens have a right to use firearms that are in common use today,” plaintiff attorney Pete Patterson said during oral arguments last Tuesday.

Currently the state bans many — but not all — semi-automatic rifles. Restrictions are in place for weapons that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition or are under 29 inches in length.

If the weapon has a detachable magazine, it cannot have two or more of the following features: a grenade launcher, a folding stock, or a flash suppressor.

Guns that are banned in Maryland include AK-47 assault rifles, Bushmaster semi-auto rifles and Ruger mini-14 folding stock models.

This summer the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects the right to carry a handgun in public for self-defense when it decided the case New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen.

That ruling caused Dominic Bianchi v. Brian Frosh, to be rehashed.

Originally, in 2021, the Fourth Circuit heard that case and ruled that Maryland’s gun restrictions were constitutional.

The case was then taken to the Supreme Court — which, after their decision on New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, vacated the ruling and sent the Maryland case back to the Fourth Circuit with instructions to keep their Bruen decision in mind.

Maryland Assistant Attorney General Robert Scott argued in court that “assault weapons banned by Maryland law are not protected by the Second Amendment because they are similar to M16s and other military style weapons more suited to use in the military.”

In arguments for the plaintiff, Patterson said there were nearly 20 million of these types of firearms in the U.S. and that roughly 60% of purchasers surveyed said they were for self-defense in the home.

“We dispute that these weapons are in common use for self-defense,” Scott said.

As part of Maryland Matters’ content sharing agreement with WTOP, we feature this article from Luke Lucent. Click here for the WTOP News website.