It has been seven long years since the Supreme Court last heard a case dealing with the Second Amendment. However, with confirmation hearings for Judge Neil Gorsuch, there’s renewed hope that the nation’s high court will once again weigh in on one or more of the many cases having to do with our right to keep and bear arms.
By Cam Edwards
There’s no doubt that in the years since the court last spoke in the McDonald v. Chicago case, striking down Chicago’s ban on handguns, lower courts have twisted the Second Amendment beyond all recognition in their zeal to uphold as many gun control laws as possible. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, in particular, has managed to nearly write the Second Amendment out of existence in a series of decisions issued over the past few years.
Most recently, in the Kolbe case, the 4th Circuit ruled that not only does Maryland’s ban on guns it deems to be “assault weapons” withstand constitutional scrutiny, the arms in question are not even protected under the Second Amendment! Ten judges on the court ruled that these semi-automatic firearms are “like” the guns used by our military in combat theaters, and since the Heller decision said that “weapons that are most useful in military service—M16 rifles and the like” could be banned, these commonly owned firearms fall outside of the scope of the Second Amendment.
In the Woollard case, decided by the 4th Circuit in 2012, Maryland’s restrictive policies for issuing concealed-carry licenses were upheld in a divided vote. Despite the fact that residents cannot obtain a concealed-carry license for the purposes of self-defense, and no provision allowing the open carrying of firearms exists in Maryland, the court held that since the state has a “substantial government interest” in reducing gun-related violence, the restrictions on the Second Amendment rights are permissible.
More recently, the 4th Circuit leveled another assault on the right to bear arms in handing down its decision in the case Robinson v. United States. Early in 2017, the court ruled that carrying a firearm, even legally, creates a presumption that the gun carrier is “armed and dangerous.” In fact, the court went out of its way to say that to be armed is to be dangerous, and by exercising your Second Amendment rights, you lose some of your Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. In a concurring opinion, Judge James Wynn wrote that anybody and everybody who legally carries a gun is “categorically dangerous.” Adding injury to insult, the judge went on to say that those individuals exercising their right to bear arms “sacrifice certain constitutional protections afforded to individuals who elect not to carry firearms,” and therefore open themselves up to police searches simply because of their lawful carry.
To point out the errors in these decisions would take a book, not a column, though each of these decisions did come with dissenting opinions that are worth reading. Still, despite the rebukes in each of these cases, the fact is these decisions carry the force of law from Maryland down to South Carolina. For tens of millions of Americans, the right to keep and bear arms doesn’t encompass the right to own the most popular rifle in the United States, or to bear arms for self-defense outside of the home, or even to have a conversation with a police officer without being frisked and disarmed. Imagine similar restrictions on the exercise of the First Amendment: Your freedom of the press doesn’t extend to modern communications like social media or email, you don’t have the right to your freedom of speech outside of the home, and that carrying a sign at a political rally or protest gives the police the authority to frisk you because you’re considered “dangerous.” Decisions like those would gut the rights protected by First Amendment, just as the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has gutted the rights protected by the Second Amendment. Hopefully, the Supreme Court will step in soon and reaffirm what it has already told these lower courts: The Second Amendment is a real right, a fundamental right, and it must be respected and protected.
Are you hopeful that the Supreme Court will soon hear pending Second Amendment cases? Which of the 4th Circuit cases mentioned in the article would you like to see a ruling on first? Share your answers in the comment section.
Cam Edwards is the host of “Cam & Co.,” which airs live 2-5 p.m. EST on NRATV and midnight EST on SiriusXM Patriot 125. He lives with his family on a small farm near Farmville, Va. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @camedwards.
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