Image credit: The Washington Post

A gun rights advocacy group is challenging Maryland’s concealed carry gun laws in a lawsuit filed against the state’s Handgun Permit Review Board.

The brief, filed in the Maryland Court of Special Appeals on behalf of Edward Holmes Whalen, argues that the state’s gun laws are unconstitutional and have been superseded by other case precedents.

A Maryland resident must provide a “good and substantial reason” to be granted a concealed carry permit. Maryland is one of 10 states considered a “may issue” state, which means it requires a permit to carry a concealed gun, and granting that permit is at the discretion of local authorities. It’s a restrictive law that prevents most average citizens from being able to obtain a permit, said Sen. Michael Hough (R-Frederick and Carroll).

“It’s an undue burden on people,” Hough said. “The vast majority of people that get this permit are armed security or private [investigators]. It’s very difficult for the average citizen to get one.”

The brief filed by Maryland Shall Issue, a gun rights organization, asserts that Maryland’s laws regarding concealed carry have been superseded by precedents in District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago. The opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller found that D.C.’s handgun ban and law that legally owned rifles and shotguns be kept “unloaded and disassembled or bound by a trigger lock” violated the Second Amendment, turning Washington, D.C., into a “shall issue” state. McDonald v. City of Chicago later determined that the Second Amendment applies to states and not solely the federal government. Both cases also determined that the Second Amendment applies outside of the home.

Memebers of Maryland Shall Issue, August 8, 2014. Image credit: Maryland Shall Issue, Facebook

A “great deal” of the argument in this case will center on those precedents, said Mark Pennak, counsel for the appellant.

“They have changed the legal framework entirely,” Pennak said.

Representatives of the Handgun Permit Review Board, the defending party in the case, did not respond to two requests for comment.

The lawsuit argues that Maryland’s good and substantial reason clause is overreaching and unconstitutional.

“If the government said the media needed to provide a good and substantial reason to write a story, would you be OK with that?” Pennak asked, arguing that such a clause could not be applied to other constitutional rights.

Maryland’s Republican legislators, including Hough, have for years tried unsuccessfully to loosen some of the state’s gun laws. In the most recent legislative session, Hough sponsored a bill that aimed to add personal protection and self-defense to qualify as a good and substantial reason. The bill received an unfavorable report in committee and never made it to the Senate floor in a vote that Hough said was nearly along party lines.

Hough acknowledged that since gun rights supporters are an overwhelming minority in the state Senate, it’s going to be challenging to loosen the state’s gun laws through legislation, adding that the court system might be “our best hope.”

“A lot of the pro-gun Democrats aren’t even around anymore,” Hough said of the makeup of the Legislature.

Hough added that he’s particularly interested in the case, because it’s an issue he hears about frequently.

“This is one of the top issues for my constituents,” he said. “They enjoy shooting. They’re law-abiding citizens who want to be able to carry for protection.”


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