BREAKING VICTORY: Federal Court of Appeals Overturns Decision That Incorrectly Upheld Bans on So-called “Assault Weapons” and “Large Capacity” Magazines!
On February 4, 2016, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued its long-awaited opinion in Kolbe v. Hogan, the NRA and CRPA supported challenge to Maryland’s outlier bans on black rifles and standard capacity magazines (pejoratively labeled “assault weapons” and “large-capacity” magazines by the state). (You can read all the briefs at michellawyers.com/kolbe-v-omalley/).
In a 2-1 decision, the Appeals Court held that Maryland’s rifle and magazine bans significantly burden the “core” Second Amendment rights of “law-abiding citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home.” The Appeals Court concluded that because Maryland’s laws stripped common arms from law-abiding citizens, the laws must be reviewed under the most demanding form of judicial review, commonly referred to as “strict scrutiny.”
In doing so, the Fourth Circuit reversed an earlier decision by the lower court which incorrectly applied a watered-down form of toothless judicial scrutiny that it used to uphold the state’s archaic bans. The Fourth Circuit’s opinion ordered the case to be reconsidered by the lower court under the much more demanding “strict scrutiny” standard. It remains to be seen whether the state will appeal the decision en banc, or to the Supreme Court, or continue the litigation back in the lower court.
The decision comes on the eve of requests for Supreme Court review in two other NRA and CRPA supported challenges to similar laws in New York and Connecticut. The Fourth Circuit’s decision in Kolbe now creates a critical “circuit split” with several other federal courts of appeal on these issues. On this point, the 90 page landmark opinion explained that, “The meaning of the Constitution does not depend on a popular vote of the circuits and it is neither improper nor imprudent for us to disagree with the other circuits addressing this issue. We are not a rubber stamp. We require strict scrutiny here not because it aligns with our personal policy preferences but because we believe it is compelled by the law set out by the [Supreme Court in District of Columbia v.] Heller.”
Amen! Today’s decision is a huge victory for gun owners, and the Fourth Circuit’s decision should be applauded for its adherence to the constitution. Stay tuned for further updates from NRA and CRPA as this important Second Amendment case moves forward!
Civil rights attorney C.D. “Chuck” Michel is President and General Counsel for CRPA. He is a former prosecutor and currently runs the law firm Michel & Associates, PC in Long Beach. The firm’s clients include the NRA and CRPA, as well as firearm manufacturers, distributors, retailers and owners.