4th Circuit: ‘Assault Weapons’ Can Be Banned for Resembling Military Guns

SPRINGVILLE, UT - JUNE 17: Courtney Manwaring holds an AR-15 semi-automatic gun at Action Target on June 17, 2016 in Springville, Utah. Semi-automatics are in the news again after the nightclub shooting in Orlando F;lord last week. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
George Frey/Getty Images

On Tuesday, the United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit upheld Maryland’s “assault weapons” ban by ruling that AR-15s have a close enough resemblance to weapons of war to be treated like weapons of war.

The ruling came in Kolbe v. Hogan.

The NRA-ILA reported that the 4th Circuit described “assault weapons” as “exceptionally lethal weapons of war.” The court ruled that the differences between the wildly popular AR-15 and actual battlefield guns like an M-16 are only “slight.” Of course, one of those “slight” differences is that the M-16 is a fully automatic firearm, which means it shoots continuously when the trigger is pulled. An AR-15 is a semiautomatic rifle that only fires one bullet each time the trigger is pulled.

According to Reuters:

The 4th Circuit… [ruled] the military-style guns used in a disproportionate share of the mass killings in the U.S. are outside the aegis of the Second Amendment because they are most suited for military use.

This is problematic inasmuch as AR-15s are not used in an disproportionate number of mass public attacks in the U.S. Consider the following:

  • Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (January 6, 2017) – Handgun
  • Burlington Mall attacker (September 23, 2016) – .22 Rifle
  • NY bombing susptect (September 16, 2016) – Glock Handgun
  • the Orlando attacker (June 12, 2016) – AR-15-style rifle
  • the UCLA gunman (June 1, 2016) – Handgun
  • the San Bernardino attackers (December 2, 2015) – Handguns, AR-15-style rifles
  • the Umpqua Community College attacker (October 1, 2015) – three Handguns and an AR-15-style rifle (ABC News)
  • Alison Parker’s attacker (August 26, 2015) – Glock Handgun
  • the Lafayette movie theater attacker (July 23, 2015) – Handgun
  • the Chattanooga attacker (July 16, 2015) – Shotgun, AK-47-style rifle, Handgun (NBC News)
  • the alleged Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal attacker (Jun 17, 2015) – Glock Handgun
  • the Las Vegas cop killers (June 9, 2015) – Four Handguns and a shotgun (New York Daily News)
  • the Santa Barbara attacker (May 23, 2014) – Handgun
  • the Fort Hood attacker (April 2, 2014) – Handgun
  • the Arapahoe High School attacker (December 13, 2013) – Shotgun
  • the D.C. Navy Yard attacker (September 16, 2013) – Shotgun
  • the Aurora movie theater attacker (July 20, 2012) – AR-15-style rifle
  • Gabby Giffords’s attacker (January 8, 2011) – Glock handgun
  • the Fort Hood attacker (November 5, 2009) – Handgun
  • the Virginia Tech attacker (April 16, 2007) – Glock Handgun

Out of those 20 high-profile public attacks, AR-15-style rifles were used five times. You could stretch that figure to six by including the AK-47-style rifle used in the Chattanooga attack, but there is still no way to make the argument that AR-15-style rifles were “used in a disproportionate share of the mass killings.” That designation clearly goes to handguns, which are much more concealable and therefore much easier to carry into crowded locations for an attack.

It is interesting to note that the 4th Circuit’s ruling comes in the wake of a “white paper” in which ATF Associate Deputy Director Ronald Turk argued against ongoing importation bans on “assault weapons.” Turk argued on the grounds that such weapons are increasingly popular for sport shooting and are actually “standard for hunting activities.” The Washington Post published the paper in which Turk said continued opposition to the weapons is based on an “almost 20-year-old study.”

But the 4th Circuit described the sporting and hunting rifles as “exceptionally lethal weapons of war.”

AWR Hawkins is the Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and host of Bullets with AWR Hawkins, a Breitbart News podcast. He is also the political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at awrhawkins@breitbart.com.


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