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Appeals court to hear arguments over constitutionality of sweeping Maryland gun-control law

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BALTIMORE — A federal appeals court has set oral arguments over the constitutionality of a Maryland law banning 45 assault weapons and gun magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia scheduled arguments in the matter for March 24.

In court papers filed Friday, gun-rights advocates say the law violates the Second Amendment and that a federal judge in Baltimore erred when she upheld the law last summer.

Brian Frosh, Maryland's newly sworn-in attorney general and chief sponsor of the law while a state senator, said Monday that the law passes constitutional muster to protect public safety.

"I think this is a common-sense test," Frosh told The Daily Record, (http://bit.ly/1KXIHHr ). "The Second Amendment does not protect assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines. It's certainly not what the framers of the Constitution intended when they drafted the Second Amendment."

The law bans 45 assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. Maryland lawmakers approved the sweeping legislation in 2013 in response to the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The shooting left 20 children and six educators dead, and became a rallying point for gun-control efforts.

In August, federal Judge Catherine Blake found that Maryland's gun-control law passed constitutional muster because it had been "reasonably adapted" to the government's interest in ensuring public safety.

In their filing, however, gun-rights advocates say banning assault weapons and large magazines must be the "lease restrictive means" to maintain public safety — a test they say the law cannot pass.

They argue that the state produced no evidence that the banned assault weapons and higher-capacity magazines presented a public safety threat before the law's enactment.

The existing background check process for the now-prohibited firearms "ensured that the individuals who purchased those firearms were law-abiding, responsible citizens," the attorneys wrote in their brief. "This system was effective in preventing the now-prohibited firearms from being used in crime, insofar as every law enforcement officer and expert acknowledged that these firearms are rarely, if ever, used in crime in Maryland."

The groups include the Associated Gun Clubs of Baltimore, the Maryland Licensed Firearms Dealers Association, and the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

The Maryland attorney general's office has argued in its 4th Circuit filings that "the banned firearms and magazines were developed, and are most suited, for military-style assaults."

"They are also disproportionately used in mass public shootings and murders of law enforcement officers," the office wrote. "The banned firearms are not commonly used for self-defense, and more than 10 rounds are rarely, if ever, required for self-defense."


Information from: The Daily Record of Baltimore, http://www.mddailyrecord.com

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