Mary­land’s ‘good rea­son’ gun law voided

Judge backs con­cealed-carry per­mits

The Washington Times Daily - - Front Page - BY DAVID HILL

A fed­eral judge has struck down a Mary­land law bar­ring res­i­dents from re­ceiv­ing hand­gun per­mits un­less they have a “good and sub­stan­tial rea­son,” in an opin­ion that gun rights ad­vo­cates cel­e­brated Mon­day as a “mon­u­men­tally im­por­tant decision.”

U.S. Dis­trict Judge Ben­son Everett Legg ruled that the law vi­o­lates the Sec­ond Amend­ment right to bear arms by re­quir­ing res­i­dents seek­ing con­cealed-carry per­mits to sub­mit ev­i­dence show­ing that they face spe­cific threats of vi­o­lence out­side their homes.

Judge Legg ruled that states are in­deed al­lowed to place cer­tain re­stric­tions on gun per­mits to im­prove public safety, but Mary­land law acts as an il­le­gal “ra­tioning sys­tem” that tries to sim­ply re­duce the num­ber of guns in public with­out re­gard to an ap­pli­cant’s fit­ness to carry a firearm.

“A cit­i­zen may not be re­quired to of­fer a ‘good and sub­stan­tial rea­son’ why he should be per­mit­ted to ex­er­cise his rights,” he wrote in his opin­ion, which was is­sued Mon­day in Bal­ti­more. “The right’s ex­is­tence is all

the rea­son he needs.”

The law­suit was filed by plain­tiff Ray­mond Woollard, a Bal­ti­more County man who re­ceived a gun per­mit in 2003, months af­ter a home break-in that led to an armed al­ter­ca­tion.

Mr. Woollard suc­cess­fully re­newed the per­mit in 2006, but his 2009 re­newal ap­pli­ca­tion was de­nied by Mary­land State Po­lice and the state’s Hand­gun Per­mit Re­view Board on the grounds that he could not pro­vide doc­u­ments to “ver­ify threats oc­cur­ring be­yond his res­i­dence.”

His law­suit, filed in 2010 against state po­lice and the re­view board, was backed by the Sec­ond Amend­ment Foun­da­tion, a Belle­vue, Wash.-based gun rights ad­vo­cacy group.

The state at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice, which rep­re­sented the de­fen­dants in the case, said it will ap­peal the rul­ing to the 4th U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals.

In his rul­ing, Judge Legg notably cited two Supreme Court prece­dents — 2008’s Dis­trict of Columbia v. Heller, in which the court ruled that the Sec­ond Amend­ment may ex­tend to public places, and 2010’s Mcdon­ald v. City of Chicago, in which the jus­tices ruled that such a decision also should ap­ply in states as it did in the Dis­trict, which is a fed­eral en­clave.

Both cases were won by at­tor­ney Alan Gura, who also rep­re­sented Mr. Woollard and the Sec­ond Amend­ment Foun­da­tion.

“The fed­eral dis­trict court has care­fully spelled out the ob­vi­ous, that the Sec­ond Amend­ment does not stop at one’s doorstep but pro­tects us wher­ever we have a right to be,” said Alan M. Got­tlieb, ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent and founder of the foun­da­tion.

Mary­land’s “good and sub­stan­tial rea­son” re­quire­ment has been crit­i­cized in re­cent years by Repub­li­cans who have ar­gued that the re­stric­tion is un­con­sti­tu­tional and overly vague. As re­cently as this year, Re­pub­li­can law­mak­ers have in­tro­duced Gen­eral Assem­bly bills to over­turn the re­quire­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to Mary­land leg­isla­tive an­a­lysts, the state has about 14,000 ac­tive con­cealed-carry per­mits and has used the “good and sub­stan­tial rea­son” clause to deny an av­er­age of 214 ap­pli­ca­tions each year since 2009.

Over that span, the state re­ceived an av­er­age of 1,786 ini­tial ap­pli­ca­tions and 2,082 re­newal ap­pli­ca­tions each year.

While res­i­dents seek­ing per­mits for per­sonal pro­tec­tion must show that they are in po­ten­tial dan­ger, the state also al­lows per­mits for many re­tired law-en­force­ment of­fi­cers and pro­fes­sion­als who can doc­u­ment that a firearm is nec­es­sary to their job du­ties.

Judge Legg’s rul­ing did not make clear whether the state would have to re­con­sider or retroac­tively award past re­jected per­mits if the “good and sub­stan­tial rea­son” re­quire­ment is re­moved. State As­sis­tant At­tor­ney Gen­eral Matthew Fader said his of­fice will ap­peal as well and seek a stay to pre­vent the rul­ing from tak­ing ef­fect.

While gun rights groups lauded Judge Legg’s opin­ion, gun con­trol ad­vo­cacy groups were harshly crit­i­cal of the decision.

Daniel Vice, a se­nior at­tor­ney for the Brady Cam­paign to Pre­vent Gun Vi­o­lence, said the rul­ing vi­o­lated sev­eral le­gal prece­dents con­fin­ing the Sec­ond Amend­ment to homes, in­clud­ing the 4th U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals’ 2011 rul­ing in United States v. Mas­cian­daro that found that cit­i­zens have no right to pos­sess a loaded hand­gun in a na­tional park.

“This is an out­lier rul­ing by a rene­gade judge,” Mr. Vice said. “It ig­nores bind­ing prece­dent and more than a dozen rul­ings in other states.”

Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, Mary­land Re­pub­li­can, ap­plauded the decision. “Judge Legg cor­rectly ruled the bur­den should be on the gov­ern­ment to prove that an Amer­i­can is un­fit to ex­er­cise this con­sti­tu­tional right,” he said. “Law-abid­ing Amer­i­cans should not have to prove to gov­ern­ments that they have a need to own and use a gun to de­fend them­selves and their fam­ily mem­bers.”

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