Maryland’s recently enacted ban on attachments that enable guns to fire more rapidly will remain in effect after a federal judge last week rejected arguments from gun-rights advocates that the law is unconstitutional.
Citing a mass slaying at an outdoor Las Vegas concert last year, U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar said the state’s ban on so-called bump stocks falls within its authority to protect public safety.
“The Maryland legislature considered the ability of bump stocks and similar devices to inflict mass injury and mass casualties with great speed, as well as their use to horrific effect in Las Vegas,” Bredar wrote in a memorandum opinion Thursday. “It then concluded that these devices pose such an unreasonable risk to public safety that they should be banned from Maryland. Based on this legislative and constitutional history, the court concludes that (the law) falls well within Maryland’s traditional police power to define and ban ultra-hazardous contraband.”
In dismissing the gun-rights advocates’ challenge, Bredar specifically said the state’s prohibition is neither unconstitutionally vague nor does it constitute a “taking” of property from owners of the devices for which the Constitution would require the government to pay them just compensation.
“To the contrary, in the context of firearms specifically, the Supreme Court confirmed that our nation’s historical tradition of prohibiting dangerous and unusual weapons in entirely consistent with the Constitution,” Bredar wrote, citing the federal government’s earlier ban on machine guns.
If just compensation were required for such prohibitions, “public safety regulations would be permanently frozen in the past, and states would be inhibited from addressing new threats to the public, no matter how grave,” Bredar added. “The Constitution does not tie the hands of state governments to such crippling effect.”
The gun-right advocates will appeal Bredar’s decision to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the group’s attorney stated in an email message Monday.
“The state overstepped its constitutional bounds by passing a law which bans many innocuous accessories, not just bump stocks,” added Cary J. Hansel, of Hansel Law P.C. in Baltimore.
The gun-rights group Maryland Shall Issue filed its lawsuit shortly after Gov. Larry Hogan signed Senate Bill 707 into law on April 24. The statute, which went into effect Oct. 1, prohibits individuals from manufacturing, possessing, selling, offering to sell, transferring, purchasing or receiving a “rapid fire trigger activator.”
The bill’s passage by a Democratic-led General Assembly and approval by a Republican governor followed the mass slaying in October 2017 at a Las Vegas country music concert, where police said they found the rapid-fire accessory on firearms used to kill 58 people.
Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh’s office, which repelled Maryland Shall Issue’s constitutional challenge, stated in written testimony to legislators last winter that “outlawing devices that allow a mass shooter to fire at a rate simulating automatic fire is an important addition to Maryland’s comprehensive firearm safety laws that protect the public and law enforcement from firearms violence.”
Bredar, the chief judge of the U.S. District Court for Maryland, rendered his decision in Maryland Shall Issue Inc. et al. v. Lawrence Hogan, No. 1:18-cv-01700-JKB.