Frosh seeks review of assault weapons ruling

Maryland attorney general wants court to review ruling on assault weapons ban.

Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh is seeking a review of an appeals court decision that dealt a blow to the state's 2013 law that bans assault rifles.

Frosh on Friday asked the full federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to review a ruling from earlier this month that sent a case on the assault weapons ban back to a lower court for review. The law has remained on the books during the legal challenges.

A three-judge panel in the Fourth Circuit ruled Feb. 2. that semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity magazines that were banned in the 2013 law are "in common use by law-abiding citizens," and therefore didn't fall under an exception to the Constitutional right to bear arms that applies to "unusual" weapons such as machine guns and hand grenades.

The three-judge panel sent the case back to the U.S. District Court in Baltimore with instructions that a judge should apply the difficult constitutional test of "strict scrutiny" when deciding whether the assault weapons ban in the Maryland Firearms Safety Act violates the Second Amendment. The judge who had found the ban to be Constitutional had used a less-stringent test called "intermediate scrutiny."

When the ruling was issued on Feb. 4, Frosh immediately said he would appeal.

"Assault weapons and high-capacity magazines are not needed for self-defense and have been used in too many mass murders," Frosh said in a statement Friday.

Frosh said the decision to use strict scrutiny instead of intermediate scrutiny conflicts with "every other appellate court" that has heard similar cases.

"It must be reconsidered, for the safety of all Marylanders," Frosh said.

Vincent DeMarco, president of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, praised Frosh's "wise decision" to seek the review. "We will support the attorney general in any way we can and we fully expect the courts to ultimately affirm the constitutionality of our life-saving law," said DeMarco, who was one of the chief lobbyists for the 2013 law.

pwood@baltsun.com

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