In what could possibly be the largest decision regarding gun control since District of Columbia v. Heller, the Firearm Safety Act of Maryland has been overturned in the 4th Federal Appeals Court. The important thing about this case is not its decision on the law in question, but it precedent for the hearing of cases regarding the Second Amendment.
Previously, cases regarding the Second Amendment were subject to intermediate scrutiny. This contrasts with all other amendments in which any law potentially violating them was subject to strict scrutiny. The best way to explain this is that previously bans on firearms would be upheld in court if they were claimed to be in the interest of public safety. As judge Clarence put it “If a broad ban on firearms can be upheld based on conjecture that the public might feel safer (while being no safer at all), then the Second Amendment guarantees nothing”. If a religion was banned based off of public safety, the law would be shot down in an instant. A less extreme example could be Roe v. Wade in which the right to an abortion was guaranteed under the right to privacy. There were limitations. In Roe v. Wade the right to an abortion was guaranteed but the states still had the right to protect potential life. Similarly, the right to own a firearm is guaranteed while the state maintain the right to regulate unusual firearms. Unusual meaning machineguns, or explosive devices. So commonly owned and accessed firearms are protected under the second amendment. However in many cases the intermediate scrutiny allows for cases to be deemed constitutional.
The big deal about the 4th circuit court’s decision is that it the case must now be heard under strict scrutiny by the U.S. District Court. Many of the provisions of the FSA would not stand up to a strict scrutiny. This in turn could have national consequences if the case was to make it up to the Supreme Court. If that does happen, then states like California, New York, New Jersey, and Illinois would all see their current anti-gun laws overturned. By banning the access to commonly owned semi-automatic firearms these states have infringed on the right to bear arms.
Another important aspect of the case is that it includes magazine capacity under the right to bear arms. Banning magazines over 10 rounds could potentially be a breach of second amendment rights because they are commonly available. The court decided that “Strict scrutiny, then, is the appropriate level of scrutiny to apply to the ban of semi- automatic rifles and magazines holding more than 10 rounds”. So not only are firearms being included in this decision, but magazine capacity as well. The implications of this case are huge.
Only time will tell if this case comes to be anything more than a simple redefining of court policy, or if it completely redefines government intervention in citizen right to bear arms.