Friday, February 5, 2016

Federal Appeals Court rules gun legislation must be held to "strict scrutiny" standard (instead of rational-basis)

For the first time, a federal appeals court has held that a state’s ban on “assault” long guns and “high-capacity” magazines must be held to the highest level of judicial scrutiny. In a 2–1 decision, the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (which covers Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia) held that Maryland’s Firearm Safety Act must be evaluated under the same stringent standard that courts routinely use to strike down race-based governmental discrimination and categorical bans on speech, since, like them, the law seeks to restrict a core constitutional freedom.

Read more at this link
 (via National Review). 

Just so you know: the difference between rational basis review and strict scrutiny is pretty big. Rational basis means that if a court hears a case that is trying to determine the constitutionality of a law, and the court itself can devise a reason why it might be constitutional, then the court can allow that law to then be constitutional * (this is my explanation of the more complete, wordier version that you can read here on Wiki).

Strict scrutiny, by contrast, is the highest (hence using the word strict, and scrutiny) level of review for cases that are about constitutional issues. When a case is touching on fundamental rights, that are part of the Bill of Rights or other parts of the Constitution, they will be presumed to have violated the Constitution unless it can be 1) justified by a compelling governmental interest, and 2) it is narrowly tailored, and 3) it is also the least restrictive means for achieving that interest. Laws often (not surprisingly) fail this test. (again, read the Wiki outline of SS here).

** RB review: "if the court can merely hypothesize a "legitimate" interest served by the challenged action, it will withstand rational basis review"

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