The restrictive and subjective laws that govern the bearing of arms in Maryland and coming under new legal scrutiny thanks to federal litigation filed on Friday by a coalition of Second Amendment groups challenging the policies as infringements on our constitutional rights.
In the complaint filed against Maryland Police Superintendent Woodrow Jones III and state Attorney General Brian Fros, the Second Amendment Foundation, Firearms Policy Coalition, Maryland Shall Issue, and the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms*, and three private individuals argue that the state’s requirement for applicants to demonstrate specific threats or recent assaults in order to qualify for a carry license places the right to bear arms off limits to most citizens.
“Anti-gun Maryland officials have been using this dodge for years,” said SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb. “By setting this arbitrary standard, state bureaucrats have been routinely denying Maryland citizens their right to bear arms. The state cannot be allowed to continue this discriminatory practice because it essentially gives public officials the power to deny someone’s fundamental, constitutionally-protected rights on a whim.”
As noted in the lawsuit, “On information and belief, due to the onerous nature of Defendants’ Regulatory Scheme, only a tiny fraction of a percent of Maryland citizens are able to obtain permits to carry handguns, and indeed, most people simply never apply at all because it is well known throughout the State that the ‘good and substantial reason’ standard effectively renders the process an exercise in futility for all ordinary law-abiding citizens, thus further chilling and denying exercise of the right.” It amounts to an unconstitutional regulatory scheme.
The attorneys for the plaintiffs acknowledge in their complaint that a previous challenge to the state’s carry laws was rejected by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals back in 2013, but since then several other appellate courts have found that similar “good and substantial reason” clauses in concealed carry statutes in places like Washington, D.C. are unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has so far declined to take any of the carry cases that have reached the Court, and at the moment a split exists between the various circuits on the issue of the “good and substantial” requirements.
It will be some time before the Supreme Court gets a chance to hear this new case, known as Call, et. al v. Jones, et. al, but the makeup of both SCOTUS and the 4th Circuit has changed since the Woollard case was decided seven years ago, and there’s good reason to believe that the Court may want to revisit the issue, given that the 4th Circuit upheld the state’s carry laws under an intermediate scrutiny standard of review instead of the history and tradition test favored by justices like Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.
It’s a constitutional absurdity that in Baltimore, where criminals carry with impunity and the number of homicides has been at or near record highs for the past six years, the average resident cannot obtain a concealed carry license in order to lawfully protect themselves with a firearm outside of their own home. The courts have a chance to set things right with the Call case. Let’s hope they avail themselves of the opportunity.
*Full disclosure: I sit on the board of the Citizens Committee