Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Quest for handgun-permit stay heads to 4th Circuit

In a motion filed late Friday, Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler asked the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to keep Maryland’s handgun-permit process in place while he challenges a ruling that would force the state to rewrite it.

Gansler’s motion says a stay is necessary before “taking the extraordinary step of invalidating a 40-year-old requirement of state law that the Maryland General Assembly found ‘necessary to preserve the peace and tranquility of the state and to protect the rights and liberties of the public.’”

At issue is a requirement to secure a concealed handgun permit that requires the permit seeker to have a “good and substantial reason” to get one.

“The Maryland General Assembly enacted the good-and-substantial-reason requirement to help protect the people of Maryland from the scourge of handgun violence, and testimony in the record from Maryland law enforcement officers, along with other evidence, demonstrates the ongoing importance of that requirement in protecting public safety,” Gansler wrote in the motion.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Benson E. Legg rejected Gansler’s motion to keep the stay in place pending an appeal.

Legg had ruled in March that gun ownership is a right implicit in the U.S. Constitution and the state should have to show why an applicant should not get a permit, instead of requiring applicants to show why they deserve them. Legg also found the “good and substantial reason” requirement to be overly broad and not reasonably adapted to the state’s substantial interest in ensuring public safety.

Tuesday’s ruling lifting the stay gave the state two weeks to rewrite its permit policy. Gansler’s motion to the 4th Circuit is an attempt to keep the current procedures in place until the appellate court has the chance to hear the state’s appeal of Legg’s March ruling.

The underlying lawsuit was filed by Hampstead resident Raymond Woollard in July 2010 against the Maryland Handgun Permit Review Board. Woollard, an honorably discharged Navy veteran, was not allowed to renew his handgun permit in 2009.

Initially, the review board rejected Woollard’s permit under a section of the Public Safety Article, which requires applicants to show “good and substantial reason to wear, carry or transport a handgun, such as a finding that the permit is necessary as a reasonable precaution against apprehended danger.” While Woollard initially obtained a permit in 2002 after fighting off an intruder in his home, the board did not find he had been subjected to further threats outside his residence.

The state’s motion did not come as a surprise to the Bellevue, Wash.-based Second Amendment Foundation, which supports gun rights and is also a party to the lawsuit.

“We anticipated that they would file this,” Dave Workman, spokesman for the Second Amendment Foundation, said Friday evening. “We’re going to wait and see how the court comes on this, but we’re encouraged that the trial judge took the action that he did. We hope the 4th Circuit will let the order stand until the appeal is heard.”

In Friday’s motion to the 4th Circuit, Gansler argued that the Second Amendment right to bear arms is not impinged upon by requiring a good and substantial reason to have a concealed carry permit.

“The Second Amendment does not secure an individual right to wear and  carry, in public, easily-concealable and highly-lethal handguns, where the individual cannot demonstrate a reasonable self-defense or other justification for doing so, in circumstances not related to hunting, organized military activities, target shooting, sport shooting or related activities,” the motion says.

“To the contrary, reasonable regulations of public carry of firearms like Maryland’s have long existed and consistently been upheld.”