At a legislative hearing in Annapolis on Tuesday, Maryland Democrats signaled their eagerness to adopt a host of new “gun-free zones” for concealed carry holders, even as the state police announced a massive increase in demand for the carry licenses among the state’s peaceable gun owners.
According to the MSP, before the Supreme Court struck down the “may issue” policy in place requiring applicants to demonstrate a justifiable need to carry a firearm (with the right of self-defense deemed insufficient), about 13-to14-thousand permits were issued every year. But in a sign of just how many Marylanders were unable to exercise their right under the old regime, the state police reported that since the Bruen decision was handed down they’ve been approving about 14-thousand carry permits per month.
Clearly there’s an appetite among many Maryland residents to embrace their right to carry, but as we discuss on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co, the Democrats in charge of the state legislature made it abundantly clear during the hearing held by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee that if they can’t stop the average citizen from obtaining a carry license, they can try to make it illegal for them to carry almost anywhere in the state.
The Supreme Court’s decision drew praise from gun rights advocate Mark W. Pennak, who cautioned the Senate committee against passing overly broad legislation.
In written testimony, Pennak criticized a bill introduced by Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher, D-Montgomery and the Senate panel’s vice chair, which would ban gun possession within 100 feet of places of “public accommodation,” including stores, restaurants, places of worship, parks, libraries and hospitals.
The high court has been “quite specific” that there are only five “sensitive” places where gun possession can be banned: legislative assemblies, polling places, courthouses, schools and government buildings, Pennak said
“Once you get beyond that five, you are going to have to find an historic analog,” Pennak told the committee, adding that no historical analogs exist from banning gun possession near restaurants, places of worship, parks, libraries and hospitals.
Sen. William C. “Will” Smith Jr., D-Montgomery and chair of the panel, questioned whether laws banning gun possession in public parks would violate the Second Amendment and be susceptible to legal challenges.
“They do and I will bring them,” said Pennak, an attorney whose group, Maryland Shall Issue, is challenging in U.S. District Court a Montgomery County law that bans gun possession within 100 yards of a “place of public assembly.”
The Court declined to issue a list of every place where it might be permissible to ban guns in the Bruen decision, but Justice Thomas made it clear that those “gun-free zones” have historically been few and far between:
Although the historical record yields relatively few 18th- and 19th-century “sensitive places” where weapons were altogether prohibited—e.g., legislative assemblies, polling places, and courthouses—we are also aware of no disputes regarding the lawfulness of such prohibitions We therefore can assume it settled that these locations were “sensitive places” where arms carrying could be prohibited consistent with the Second Amendment. And courts can use analogies to those historical regulations of “sensitive places” to determine that modern regulations prohibiting the carry of firearms in new and analogous sensitive places are constitutionally permissible.
While the Court didn’t foreclose the possibility of modern “sensitive places” having historic analogues that would allow them to remain in place, it specifically rejected the kind of sweeping ban on lawful carry that Waldstreicher is demanding, noting that “expanding the category of “sensitive places” simply to all places of public congregation that are not isolated from law enforcement defines the category of ‘sensitive places’ far too broadly” and would turn entire cities into “gun-free zones”; infringing on the general right to carry a firearm in public for self-defense.
Pennak gave lawmakers some valuable advice that will probably be completely ignored, at least by those in the Democratic majority. Maybe they’ll trim Waldstreicher’s legislation as it makes its way through committee, but my guess is that whatever gets voted on by the full Senate will still be chock full of unconstitutional violations of the right to bear arms.