The legal fight over Montgomery County, Maryland’s post-Bruen restrictions on where folks can lawfully carry a firearm in self-defense has reached new heights of absurdity, with the county trying to convince a court to disregard a map highlighting all of the newly imposed “gun-free zones” and arguing that, in essence, transporting an unloaded firearm locked in the trunk of your car is akin to being able to carry on your person.
The Firearms Policy Coalition highlighted the ridiculous claims on Twitter on Monday, which came in the latest court filing by Montgomery County officials.
The county responds to the claim that it's basically impossible to carry outside the home by saying that police are exempt and others can actually carry wherever they want… as long as the gun is locked up and separate from ammo: https://t.co/l848d2TDEV pic.twitter.com/0udUm3fHst
— Firearms Policy Coalition (@gunpolicy) July 24, 2023
The county’s issue with the map that was included in a recent filing by the plaintiffs challenging the plethora of “sensitive places” is that it supposedly contains “numerous, readily apparent errors in both its methodology and conclusions.”
For example, Carlin-Weber’s maps do not reflect the existence of the private residence (Section 57-11(b)(3)) or business exceptions (Section 57-11(b)(4)) where a firearm may be kept under the County Firearms Law. Using Carlin-Weber’s map as support, the Emergency Motion incorrectly concludes that “it is literally impossible to drive in or through the County…with a firearm without quickly entering one or more of these 100-yard exclusionary zones [set forth in Section 57- 11].” (Doc. 10-1 at 11). This is also inaccurate as a person can transport the weapon in a locked case, separate from its ammunition (Section 57-11(b)(4)).
Which is not the same as carrying on your person, and that is the subject of the lawsuit filed by Maryland Shall Issue. But the county maintains that the plaintiffs “overstate grossly the reach” of the new law.
They characterize the County’s restrictions on public carry as banning the ability to carry a firearm throughout the County, including private property. This is simply not true. The County’s law restricts firearms in places of public assembly, and that restriction does not apply to:
1. possession of a firearm or ammunition in a person’s home;
2. possession of a firearm and its ammunition at a business by its owner or an authorized employee of the business;
3. a law enforcement officer or a licensed security guard;
4. a retired law enforcement officer; and
5. the transport of a firearm in a vehicle when it is locked in a case, separate from its ammunition.
Again, there’s a huge difference between transporting a firearm and carrying a firearm, and the county’s attorneys should be well aware of that. If, as the county contends, there’s no substantive difference then why doesn’t Montgomery County simply allow for concealed carry licensees to keep their firearm on them when they’re behind the wheel or traveling as a passenger in a vehicle?
Montgomery County is trying to have it both ways; arguing before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that the county’s restrictions won’t have a chilling effect on the right to bear arms while the politicians who approved the prohibitions have made it crystal clear that was the intent of the ordinance in question. Quoting from the plaintiffs’ appeal to the Fourth Circuit:
The County Executive was vocal in opposing Bruen, as was the sponsor of Bill 21-22E, the County Council President, who complained that the decision made it more difficult for the County to enact policies that “prevent someone’s Second Amendment right from infringing on the right of me and my family to go to a movie theater without having to wonder or worry about someone sitting next to me is carrying a gun on them.”
Those views were endorsed by the leadership of the Montgomery County Police Department, id., by the County Council, and by the County Executive. Bill 21-22E was enacted as emergency legislation and went into effect immediately upon the signature of the County Executive on November 28, 2023.
… As these maps make plain, it is literally impossible to drive in or through the County, including on Interstate Highways, like I-495 and I-270 and other thoroughfares, with a firearm without quickly entering one or more of these 100-yard exclusionary zones. The downtown areas in the County are almost completely “no go” zones. Indeed, plaintiffs Brandon Ferrell, Joshua Edgar, Deryck Weaver and Nancy and Ronald David cannot even carry outside their homes at all with their permits. The same is true for declarant Allan Barall.
That effect is not disputed by the County. That result is reinforced by Section 57-10, which, as noted, makes it unlawful for any person to have a gun “on his person, concealed or exposed, or in a motor vehicle where it is readily available for use.” That provision is not subject to any 100-yard limitation.
That result is indefensible. Bruen held that “there is no historical basis for New York to effectively declare the island of Manhattan a ‘sensitive place’” as that “would in effect exempt cities from the Second Amendment and would eviscerate the general right to publicly carry arms for self-defense.”
The island of Manhattan occupies approximately 23 square miles. Montgomery County occupies over 506 square miles. If New York may not “effectively” ban carry on the island of Manhattan or in cities, the County may not “effectively” ban carry throughout the County. Bruen held that there is a “general right” to carry in public, but the County has extinguished that right, exactly as its officials intended.
Transporting an unloaded and locked handgun is worlds apart from being able to lawfully carry a firearm that can be used in self-defense, and despite the county’s protests to the contrary the sheer number of “sensitive places” where guns are off-limits (including all private property by default) do indeed make most of Montgomery County a “gun-free zone” where your Second Amendment rights are null and void. There’ve already been more than 40 carjackings in the county so far this year, so clearly criminals aren’t abiding by these prohibitions, and law-abiding gun owners who possess a valid concealed carry license are not only having their rights unjustly stripped from them, but are at a greater risk of harm thanks to the anti-gun attitudes of those in power in the D.C. suburb. This should be an easy call for the Fourth Circuit, but I’m not holding my breath that the three-judge panel will acknowledge the damage done by the country’s unconstitutional restrictions on our most fundamental civil right.