MD Gun Law Overturned, Court Rules It Violated 2nd Amendment
Patch reporter Megan VerHelst wrote this story.
MARYLAND — A federal appeals court on Tuesday overturned a decade-old state law requiring Marylanders to obtain a license to purchase a handgun, claiming the law violates the Second Amendment, according to multiple reports.
In a 2-1 opinion, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled the law — which requires potential gun owners to submit fingerprints for a background check and take a firearms safety class — was unconstitutional, the Washington Post reported.
The decision was based on a 2022 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, which found gun restrictions were unconstitutional unless enacted around the time of the Second Amendment’s adoption.
"The challenged law restricts the ability of law-abiding adult citizens to possess handguns, and the state has not presented a historical analogue that justifies its restriction; indeed, it has seemingly admitted that it couldn’t find one," Circuit Judge Julius N. Richardson wrote in an opinion obtained by the Baltimore Banner. "Under the Supreme Court’s new burden-shifting test for these claims, Maryland’s law thus fails, and we must enjoin its enforcement."
In last year's decision, the Supreme Court struck down a New York law requiring people to demonstrate a specific need for carrying a gun to get a concealed carry license. In a 6-3 opinion, the justices said the requirement violated the Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms.”
Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority that the Constitution protects "an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home," according to The Associated Press.
That right is not a "second-class right," Thomas wrote. "We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need."
Maryland is among several states — including California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island — that have laws similar to New York.
Maryland's current regulation for potential gun owners was included in Maryland’s Firearm Safety Act of 2013, which lawmakers enacted following the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead in Connecticut, the Banner reported.
Gov. Wes Moore released a statement shortly after the ruling and said he was "disappointed" in the court's decision.
"This law is not about stripping away rights from responsible gun owners – it’s about every Marylander having the right to live free from fear," Moore said.
Moore continued, saying "common-sense gun laws are critical to protecting all Marylanders from the gun violence that has terrorized our communities.
"Every Marylander has the right to feel safe in their own neighborhood — and I will continue to fight for this law," Moore said. "Our administration is currently looking at all options and reviewing the ruling."
U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Montgomery County, also responded after the ruling, calling it a "disastrous consequence" of the "absurd" Supreme Court standard. He released the following statement on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on Maryland’s handgun license law.
"It is a deeply misguided decision that will make Marylanders less safe," Van Hollen said. "The Supreme Court needs to reconsider the ridiculous precedent it set last year, overturn the Fourth Circuit’s decision, and end this dangerous backward trend."
Meanwhile, gun advocates lauded the decision.
"This makes it very clear that the state can’t erect obstacles," Mark Pennak, president of Maryland Shall Issue, told the Post. "The right to keep and bear arms necessitates the ability to acquire them. You cannot keep and bear that which you cannot acquire."
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