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Gun-rights group asks Supreme Court to void Md.’s permit requirement

The Second Amendment Foundation is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down a key part of Maryland’s handgun-permit law, which a federal appellate court found constitutional this spring.

Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler says he will oppose the request for review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Requiring applicants for handgun permits to state a “good and substantial reason” to carry the firearm violates their constitutional Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms,” the Bellevue, Wash.-based group stated in its petition to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Second Amendment Foundation also said the law places an unlawful burden on individuals seeking to exercise a constitutional right and impermissibly gives law enforcement broad discretion to reject a permit request under a too-vague standard.

A constitutional right should not require “a special dispensation from the police,” the Bellevue, Wash.-based foundation wrote in its request for review.

The petition tracks the arguments the foundation raised — successfully, at first — on behalf of Hampstead resident Raymond Woollard. In March, however, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the ruling in Woollard’s favor, leading to the Second Amendment Foundation’s petition to the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The state intends to oppose the petition, the attorney general’s office said Thursday.

Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler declined to comment on the foundation’s petition. However, he issued a statement after the 4th Circuit’s March decision.

“This decision completely comports with the Supreme Court’s Second Amendment rulings,” Gansler said. “Maryland is a safer place today because of its handgun conceal and carry permit laws.”

A spokesman for Gansler said the office would have nothing further to add, “except we expect to file our response to the cert petition within the 30-day time frame.”

The state’s deadline is Aug. 12.

The justices are not expected to decide whether to hear the case until after the court’s 2013-2014 term starts in October.

In the term that just ended, the high court rejected the Second Amendment Foundation’s petition in a similar case from the 2nd Circuit, challenging New York’s handgun permit law.

In the Maryland case, the 4th Circuit found that requiring individuals to show a “good and substantial reason” to carry a handgun was a valid way to help achieve the legitimate goal of protecting the public from violent crime.

The appeals court overturned a March 2012 ruling by U.S. District Judge Benson E. Legg, who said Maryland’s law was unconstitutionally broad and not reasonably adapted to Maryland’s substantial interest in ensuring public safety.

Legg cited the Supreme Court’s 2008 decision in D.C. v. Heller, which found that the Second Amendment protects the rights of individual citizens against intrusion by the federal government; and its 2010 decision in McDonald v. Chicago, which found that the amendment also applies to actions by states and municipalities.

Woollard’s lawsuit was filed on July 29, 2010, almost exactly one month after the Supreme Court’s ruling in McDonald, which also was filed by the Second Amendment Foundation and its attorney Alan Gura, of Gura & Possessky PLLC in Alexandria, Va.

Gura’s co-counsel in the current appeal is Cary J. Hansel III, of Joseph, Greenwald & Laake P.A. in Greenbelt, who is representing Woollard.

Woollard filed suit after the state rejected his 2009 application to renew his handgun permit.

The U.S. Navy veteran had obtained the gun in 2002 after his son-in-law broke into his home on a remote farm to steal car keys in order to drive to Baltimore to buy drugs. Woollard’s permit was renewed in 2006.

However, when Woollard applied for a second renewal, the Maryland Handgun Permit Review Board turned him down. The board found Woollard lacked a “good and substantial reason” for the permit because he had not had contact with his son-in-law for seven years and did not provide documentation showing he was being threatened outside his residence, according to the 4th Circuit’s opinion.

In addition, the review board noted that, under Heller, Woollard already had a right to have the gun in his home.

The case is Woollard et al. v. Gallagher et al., U.S. Supreme Court No. 13-42.