Maryland Defends Strict Gun Permit Process
By Maggie Clark, Staff Writer
Maryland officials defended their strict gun permit regulations Friday (July 27) by asking a federal appeals court judge to block the effects of a lower court ruling that would have loosened the state’s restrictions on obtaining concealed-carry permits.
Attorney General Doug Gansler’s office filed a motion with the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond to stay U.S. District Court Judge Benson Legg’s July 23 ruling that Maryland’s gun permit restrictions were too burdensome and constituted “irreparable injury.” The ruling would cause the state’s requirement that applicants for gun permits must show a “good and substantial reason” for carrying a concealed firearm to be nullified as of August 7, if the Fourth Circuit does not grant Gansler’s motion.
Gansler argued that removing the requirement would cause the state to lose "an important tool to protect the people of Maryland against devastating handgun violence."
Gansler is hoping to keep the current permit rules in place while the court considers his earlier appeal of Legg’s full decision from March. In that decision, Legg ruled that Maryland’s requirement that applicants for concealed-carry permits provide a “good and substantial reason to wear, carry, or transport a handgun, such as a finding that the permit is necessary as a reasonable precaution against apprehended danger,” is unconstitutional.
Legg, a U.S. district judge for Maryland, issued the ruling in July as part of a two-year-long lawsuit filed by the Second Amendment Foundation, a Washington state-based Second Amendment advocacy group, against the Maryland State Police and the state handgun review board, which enforce Maryland’s gun permit laws, some of the strictest in the nation.
California’s courts are also hearing challenges to changes to that state’s gun laws. A 2011 law that would require anyone buying handgun ammunition to be thumb-printed and show identification has been on hold in a Fresno court for more than a year as a number of appeals have been filed on both sides of the case. Interest in the case was spurred by the Aurora, Colorado shooting last week. Gun purchases have significantly increased in Colorado and nationwide since the shooting.
Back in Maryland, Legg’s order has already prompted an increase in concealed-carry permit applications to the Maryland State Police, and Greg Shipley, spokesperson for the state police, says the agency expects the applications to increase in the coming weeks.
If it’s upheld by the Fourth Circuit, Legg's ruling would change the way the state police review applications, since they would no longer have to consider whether an applicant has a “good and substantial reason” to carry a concealed firearm. Over the years, says Shipley, the “good and substantial reason” requirement has been interpreted to be over and above the need for personal protection.
As of December 31, Maryland had 12,000 active concealed-carry permits in the state, according to a report issued earlier this month from the Government Accountability Office. Maryland had the nation’s fourth-lowest ratio of active permit holders to adult population of the state, with 0.3 percent of adults holding valid concealed-carry permits. Only Mississippi, California and Hawaii had lower rates of valid permit holders.