Gun control measures struck down in two states

The rulings come after a Supreme Court ruling in 2022 that expanded the rights of gun owners

Eric Garcia
Friday 24 November 2023 17:31 GMT
Maryland's handgun licensing law struck down by federal appeals court

Federal courts in Maryland and Oregon struck down two gun control laws this week as the impact of a Supreme Court ruling last year that expanded the rights of gun owners continues to spread.

A three-judge panel in the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled against a ten-year-old law in Maryland which required people to acquire a license to purchase a handgun.

Two of the judges voted in favour of nullifying the law. Former president Donald Trump nominated Judge Julius Richardson, who wrote for the majority, together with former president George W Bush-nominated Judge G Steven Agee.

The rulings demonstrate the potential for a rollback of similar gun control laws across the country on the basis of the Supreme Court ruling.

Last year, the US Supreme Court ruled for the first time that the US Constitution protected an individual’s right to carry a handgun in public to defend themselves. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc v Bruen in his majority opinion that “the government must demonstrate that the regulation is consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition.”

“Under the Supreme Court’s new burden-shifting test for these claims, Maryland’s law thus fails, and we must enjoin its enforcement,” Judge Richardson wrote in his ruling. Maryland passed the law in 2013 in the wake of the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

A district court had previously disagreed with the claims from the plaintiffs that the law violated the Second Amendment of the US Constitution before the Supreme Court decision last year.

“Maryland has identified no other traditions that could serve as a historical analogue, nor has it presented any other evidence that the challenged law ‘is consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation,’” Judge Richardson wrote. “So it has not met its burden under Bruen, and its law cannot survive Plaintiffs’ Second Amendment challenge.”

Similarly, in Oregon, a judge ruled on Tuesday that a gun control law that voters passed violated the state constitution, the Associated Press reported. The law banned high-capacity magazines and required people to undergo a criminal background check and complete a gun safety training course to purchase a firearm.

Voters approved of the new law after the Bruen case. But gun owners filed a suit saying it violated Oregon’s constitution.

“We hope the Attorney General’s office will realize that the ill-conceived and unconstitutional ballot measure should not be defended,” Tyler Smith, one of the plaintiffs, told the AP in an email.

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