Maryland cannot enforce a law requiring people to obtain a license before they can buy a handgun, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.
State law requires that people wishing to purchase a handgun must first complete steps such as submitting their fingerprints for a background investigation and completing a gun safety training course. These are requirements to obtain a Handgun Qualification Permit, or HQL.
In a 2-1 opinion, Circuit Judge Julius N. Richardson wrote that the law cannot stand under a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling declaring that gun regulations at fire is unconstitutional unless the government can demonstrate that it is consistent with the country’s historical tradition.
“The challenged law restricts the ability of law-abiding adult citizens to possess handguns, and the State has not presented a historical analog justifying this restriction; in fact, he apparently admitted that he did not find one,” Richardson wrote in an opinion joined by Judge G. Steven Agee. “Under the Supreme Court’s new burden-shifting test for these claims, Maryland’s law therefore fails, and we must enjoin its enforcement. »
Maryland Shall Issue, an organization that seeks to preserve and advance the rights of gun owners, and Atlantic Guns Inc., a gun store, were among those who filed a lawsuit over the requiring people to obtain a handgun qualification permit, alleging that this violated the law. Second Amendment.
The regulation was one part of Maryland’s 2013 gun safety law, enacted following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 20 children and six adults dead in Connecticut.
Richardson wrote that the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision in a case called New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen represented a “radical change in Second Amendment law.”
The law, he wrote, does not prohibit people from owning handguns at some point in the future. But regulations now prevent them from owning handguns.
That’s because people can’t get a handgun qualification permit until the state reviews their application, which can take up to 30 days. The settlement “deprives them of this ability until their application is approved, no matter what they do,” Richardson wrote.
Maryland, the judge wrote, also failed to meet its burden of demonstrating that there is historical evidence justifying the law.
In her dissenting opinion, Senior Justice Barbara Milano Keenan wrote that the majority fundamentally misapplied the Bruen decision and took a “hyperaggressive view of the Second Amendment.”
“Rewarding” for gun rights supporters
This decision represents a victory for gun owners.
Mark Pennak, president of the Maryland Shall Issue and attorney for the group, testified before lawmakers in 2013 that he believed the handgun permit was unconstitutional.
“I then told them, in written and oral testimony, that it was unconstitutional. They didn’t believe me at that time, so we filed a complaint,” he said. “It’s gratifying to see that I was right.”
Pennak said gun owners support certain measures, such as background checks. But the requirements to obtain a handgun qualification permit were too onerous, he said.
There are only a limited number of places in the state that offer training classes and the ability to fire live ammunition, he said. Some jurisdictions do not have shooting ranges, so potential owners must drive elsewhere to meet live-fire requirements.
“This is a great victory for the human rights of Marylanders to acquire a handgun for self-defense,” Pennak said.
Gun safety advocates say decision is ‘wrong’
As Pennak’s group celebrated, gun control supporters denounced the court’s opinion.
Maryland Governor Wes Moore released a statement saying he was disappointed.
“This law is not about taking away the rights of responsible gun owners, but about giving every Marylander the right to live without fear,” Moore, a Democrat, said in the release.
Moore said he would “continue to fight for this law” but said his team was reviewing the decision and weighing its options. The state could seek further review before the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Everytown Law, the legal arm of the advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety, immediately called the decision a “dangerous and misguided decision.”
Everytown Law noted that much of the court’s reasoning relied on the new standard for evaluating the constitutionality of gun laws set in Bruen.
“Requiring handgun buyers to pass a background check and complete gun safety training before purchasing a weapon is not only common sense, it’s entirely consistent with the Second Amendment and the new test established by the Bruen decision,” said William Taylor, deputy director. with Everytown Law, said in a statement.
Everytown said it is confident the 4th Circuit’s decision will be overturned.
It’s not yet clear whether state lawmakers will respond to the ruling by taking up the issue of handgun licensing in their next legislative session in January. But Democratic leaders were frustrated by the decision.
“Today’s decision is crazy,” Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat, said in a statement. “Every responsible gun owner supports basic firearms training and wants to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. This decision will unequivocally lead to more gun violence and gun-related deaths.
This is a developing story. Check back later for more information.
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