Wednesday, March 15, 2017
The Second Amendment – Headed to the Supreme Court
On February 21st, in the United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an en banc (the full bench) ruling to uphold a Maryland statute that banned assault weapons and detachable oversized magazines. The fundamental premise was that the Second Amendment does not give citizens the right to own military assault weapons. “The court leaned its decision on the 2008 Supreme Court ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller. Heller concluded that the Second Amendment does indeed allow the right to bear arms, but isn't unlimited — a decision that opened up the discussion on whether assault weapons go beyond the limits of Second Amendment protections.” AOL.com, February 22nd.
With a massive array of amicus briefs from states attorneys general aligned on both sides of the issue, the National Rifle Association, gun owners associations, gun safety organizations, etc., etc., the court made its feelings known with the opening lines from Robert Bruce King, a Clinton appointee writing for the majority:
On the morning of December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, a gunman used an AR-15-type Bushmaster rifle and detachable thirty-round magazines to murder twenty first-graders and six adults in the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Two additional adults were injured by gunfire, and just twelve children in the two targeted classrooms were not shot. Nine terrified children ran from one of the classrooms when the gunman paused to reload, while two youngsters successfully hid in a restroom. Another child was the other classroom’s sole survivor. In all, the gunman fired at least 155 rounds of ammunition within five minutes, shooting each of his victims multiple times.
Both before and after Newtown, similar military-style rifles and detachable magazines have been used to perpetrate mass shootings in places whose names have become synonymous with the slaughters that occurred there — like Aurora, Colorado (twelve killed and at least fifty-eight wounded in July 2012 in a movie theater), and San Bernardino, California (fourteen killed and more than twenty wounded in December 2015 at a holiday party). In the early morning hours of June 12, 2016, a gunman killed forty-nine and injured fifty-three at the Pulse night club in Orlando, Florida, making it the site of this country’s deadliest mass shooting yet. According to news reports, the Orlando gunman used a Sig Sauer MCX, a semiautomatic rifle that was developed at the request of our Army’s special forces and is known in some military circles as the “Black Mamba.” Other massacres have been carried out with handguns equipped with magazines holding more than ten rounds, including those at Virginia Tech (thirty-two killed and at least seventeen wounded in April 2007) and Fort Hood, Texas (thirteen killed and more than thirty wounded in November 2009), as well as in Binghamton, New York (thirteen killed and four wounded in April 2009 at an immigration center), and Tucson, Arizona (six killed and thirteen wounded in January 2011 at a congresswoman’s constituent meeting in a grocery store parking lot).
In response to Newtown and other mass shootings, the duly elected members of the General Assembly of Maryland saw fit to enact the State’s Firearm Safety Act of 2013 (the “FSA”), which bans the AR-15 and other military-style rifles and shotguns (referred to as “assault weapons”) and detachable large-capacity magazines. The plaintiffs in these proceedings contest the constitutionality of the FSA with a pair of Second Amendment claims — one aimed at the assault weapons ban, the other at the prohibition against large-capacity magazines — plus Fourteenth Amendment equal protection and due process claims.
The plaintiffs obviously lost, at least at this stage of the appellate process. But this is like to find its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and most probably decided with a new, Trump-appointed justice on the bench. It’s hard to read the above words and think that there is any justification for anyone in our country to own such weapons. And still the U.S. Senate just voted successfully to rescind an Obama administration executive order than would, though background checks and related materials, have denied mentally ill persons the right to own guns.
It is equally hard to justify why there is a GOP groundswell in support of an NRA-lobbied proposal to allow silencers to be completely legal. Arguing that gun enthusiasts need to protect their hearing (wear ear protectors at the range folks!), the NRA would like to allow a fairly unrestricted use of silencers across the board. Just think how much more time the use of a silencer would give a mass murderer before he or she were detected and law enforcement called. And trust me, the bulk of the police community in the United States doesn’t like this any more than I do. Are we out of our minds?
I’m Peter Dekom, and the rest of the world stands in wonder how we continue to allow such open and free dissemination of our own mini-weapons of massive destruction to flow rather freely though our entire society.