25 States Urge Supreme Court to Strike Down Maryland’s Far-Reaching Gun Ban

By Matthew Vadum
Matthew Vadum
Matthew Vadum
contributor
Matthew Vadum is an award-winning investigative journalist and a recognized expert in left-wing activism.
January 30, 2022 Updated: January 31, 2022

A bloc of 25 states, led by Arizona, is urging the Supreme Court to take up a case that challenges Maryland’s unusually restrictive gun-control laws, which the states argue were enacted in defiance of the high court’s landmark Second Amendment rulings.

The court filing comes as Americans await the court’s ruling in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, which could come at any time. The justices seemed receptive to arguments in that case on Nov. 3, 2021, that New York state’s tough concealed-carry gun permitting system offends the Second Amendment, as previously reported by The Epoch Times.

Maryland’s Firearms Safety Act of 2013, enacted on the theory that restricting legal gun purchases promotes safety, is among the strictest in the nation. The legal regime requires that those who wish to purchase a pistol seek a license. Applicants must complete safety training and be fingerprinted before a gun permit will be issued. The state bans popular weapons such as the AR-15 and similar rifles and limits magazine capacity to 10 rounds. Maryland law also prohibits firearms with features such as flash hiders and folding stocks that the bloc of states argues enhance gun safety.

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Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is seen in an undated photo provided on June 10, 2021. (Mark Brnovich)

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said Maryland’s anti-gun laws go too far.

“Americans do not require approval from a local jurisdiction to exercise their constitutional rights,” Brnovich, a Republican, said in a statement.

“We must vigorously oppose this type of misguided overreach at all levels of government.”

Joining Arizona in the friend-of-the-court brief are the attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina,  South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

The case in which the friend brief was filed on Jan. 26 is Bianchi v. Frosh, court file 21-902. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit upheld the Maryland law in September. The bloc of states argues that the circuit court violates Supreme Court precedent by fashioning its own standard that allows firearms to be banned if a court believes the weapon is military-grade, or a “weapon of war” in the parlance of gun control advocates.

Petitioners Dominic Bianchi, David Snope, and Micah Schaefer are residents of Maryland. The petitioners that are organizations are licensed firearms dealer Field Traders LLC, Firearms Policy Coalition Inc., Second Amendment Foundation Inc., and Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. The respondent, Brian Frosh, a Democrat, is Maryland’s attorney general.

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The Supreme Court is seen in Washington on Sept. 21, 2020. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

In December 2020, petitioners sued in federal district court, claiming that “Maryland’s categorical ban on the possession of common semiautomatic firearms is facially unconstitutional under the Second Amendment, which is applicable to Maryland under the Fourteenth Amendment,” according to the petition (pdf) filed with the Supreme Court.

Second Amendment supporters say that in recent years, Americans’ gun ownership rights have hung by a thread in the Supreme Court. In District of Columbia v. Heller (2010), the Supreme Court held 5–4 that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm. In McDonald v. Chicago (2012), the high court found 5–4 that the right of an individual to “keep and bear arms” is constitutionally incorporated, or made applicable, to the states.

Since those decisions were rendered, the ideological balance on the Supreme Court has shifted, leading to the current 6–3 conservative supermajority. Liberal Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement last week, but he will likely be replaced by another liberal jurist.

According to the brief, “the ‘useful in military service’ standard adopted by the Fourth Circuit” not only would “perversely result in eliminating constitutional protection from the very arms the Founders expected law-abiding citizens to bring with them when mustering for militia service … but taken to the limits of its logic, this standard threatens to strip constitutional protection from virtually all firearms.”

Nearly 20 million rifles of the kind Maryland bans have been sold in the United States and are typically used for legitimate self-defense, the brief states.

“Yet the nearly 85 million people living in Maryland and the five other States (and the District of Columbia) with similar bans on common semi-automatic rifles are flatly prohibited from keeping or bearing these arms, solely because they live on one side of a state line rather than the other. That situation is intolerable, and only this Court’s intervention can correct it.”

The Epoch Times reached out for comment to counsel of record for the state, Julia Doyle Bernhardt of the Maryland Office of the Attorney General. Office spokeswoman Raquel Coombs replied on her behalf, saying via email, “Our office does not comment on ongoing litigation.”

Maryland was supposed to file a response to the petition by Feb. 14 but on Jan. 25 asked the court to extend the deadline. The Supreme Court granted the motion and ordered the state to respond by March 16.

Matthew Vadum
contributor
Matthew Vadum is an award-winning investigative journalist and a recognized expert in left-wing activism.