By Rob Morse
Maryland’s Attorney General Brian Frosh filed a recent amicus brief with the US Supreme Court justifying the state’s ban of modern sporting rifles because those weapons have sometimes been used to commit mass murder. The ban is being challenged in Bianch v. Frosh a case seeking cert by the high court.
As the Mountain States Legal Foundation describes the case . . .
Maryland outlaws many common semiautomatic rifles, on the premise that these are “assault weapons” ordinary citizens should not own. Many of the features banned by Maryland increase the rifles’ usefulness and safety in emergency situations. These arms are legal in 44 states, where they are among the nation’s most popular models.
“Assault weapon” is a politicized catchphrase with no fixed meaning, invoked by politicians and anti-gun activists to frighten the public and criminalize constitutionally protected arms. Even courts have bought into this fiction—falsely claiming that the arms in question are essentially military weapons, and can be banned for ordinary citizens based on a gross misreading of Supreme Court precedent.
In his argument, Frosh mentioned violent attacks that happened outside of Maryland. For some reason the Attorney General failed to mention the far larger number number of cases in which honest citizens used a rifle for justified self-defense. If this is an omission, it’s an oversight the size of the Grand Canyon.
The AG’s brief goes back a decade to chronicle 150 deaths that were attributed to a mass murderer who used an “assault weapon” at some time during his attack. What isn’t clear is why the Attorney General stopped there.
Why didn’t the AG also mention that rifles like these are in common use and are routinely used for armed self-defense? I am not saying that black rifles could be used for armed defense. I’m saying that they were used, are used, and will be used for armed defense every day.
You’d think the Supreme Court Justices would like to know that. I suspect they would also like to know why the Maryland Attorney General chose to exclude those facts.
How disingenuous was the Attorney General’s argument? We know more than 20 million people report owning a modern rifle in the US. We know that ordinary US citizens use firearms for armed defense about 1.7 million times each year. We know they use a rifle in those defensive encounters about 13 percent of the time.
I don’t know how many of those rifles we used in armed defense situations were the scary models that the Attorney General wants to keep Marylanders from buying. I don’t know if each one of those self-defensive encounters would have resulted in death since bad guys almost always run away when they sees that grandma is armed.
Those subtleties are interesting but they are overwhelmed by other facts. Firearms in the United States are used hundreds of thousands (millions?) of times more often for self-defense than they are to commit mass murder.
It is hard to know precisely which type of firearm is likely to be used in a crime because the firearm isn’t recovered in every case. In this case, the evidence is overwhelming. Rifles represent a fraction of the guns owned by honest citizens, but they’re still used ten times more often in armed defense situations than any firearm is used in any murder.
Let’s put what we know into perspective. Each day, honest citizens in the US use a rifle to prevent death or great bodily injury. Armed citizens save many more lives with rifles each day than are lost to mass murderers each year.
Should we do what we can to reduce mass murder? Of course we should. So why haven’t we? In particular, why hasn’t the Maryland legislature fully funded state-sponsored treatment of the mentally ill?
Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh used to be a Maryland State Senator. Perhaps the voters will ask him.
This article originally appeared at Slow Facts and is reprinted here with permission.