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Senate panel considers abolishing Handgun Permit Review Board

Former panel member tossed from hearing after refusing to stop her testimony

Maryland state troopers escort Shari Judah from a hearing of the Senate Executive Nominations Committee this morning. (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

Maryland state troopers escort Shari Judah from a hearing of the Senate Executive Nominations Committee this morning. (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

ANNAPOLIS — Opponents of a bill that would abolish the Handgun Permit Review Board expressed concerns that their efforts were dealt a setback when a former member of the panel had to be removed by Maryland State Police.

The tense moment is the latest in a series of contentious debates over appointments to the panel that takes appeals on Maryland State Police decisions on conceal-carry permits. Those concerns, which center on the rate at which state police decisions are reversed or modified, has grown into an effort to eliminate a board some Democrats say is antiquated and politically biased in favor of approving permits.

“The Handgun Permit Review Board is a few untrained citizens overturning the state police,” said Sen. Pam Beidle, D-Anne Arundel and sponsor of the bill.

Under Beidle’s bill, the permit review board — with members who are attorneys and police officers and owners of security companies — would be eliminated. All appeals of decisions made by the Maryland State Police would go directly to an administrative law judge. Currently, the board hears appeals and as of October, appeals of those decisions go to an administrative law judge.

The current law is less than a year old.

The  board has the ability to reverse or modify decisions made by the state police.

Concerning to Beidle and other Democratic lawmakers are the 222 times the board has voted in the last 12 months to alter a state police decision, including 145 changes to modifications or restrictions and 77 times the board reversed a decision by the police, according to figures released by the permit review board.

“I have a great deal of respect for the state police,” said Beidle. “I think it’s wrong that we are overturning their recommendations so often.”

Supporters of the current process called restrictions on the permits confusing and in some cases unworkable.

“So what we do at the board is try to apply the individualized discretion under the given facts and circumstances of each and every applicant’s case that they’re not getting from the Maryland State Police,” said John Michel, vice chair of the board.

Michel and board members Carol Loveless and Brian Fischer were nominated to the board by Gov. Larry Hogan. The Senate voted earlier this month to reject the trio and promised legislation to eliminate the board.

Loveless said lawmakers don’t understand how the board operates

“I understand when you just look at the numbers what the concern might be,” said Loveless. “What I am upset about is no one ever asked us about those numbers. We were asked about Supreme Court cases but never about your constituents’ cases. No one ever talked to the board. No one ever came to a meeting. I would ask that you lift the restrictions and keep the board.”

The nearly 90-minute hearing was mostly civil with just one tense moment.

A former member of the state Handgun Permit Review Board was ejected from the hearing room after refusing to end her testimony.

Shari Judah was released without charges or citations after troopers escorted her from the room during a hearing on the measure that would eradicate the board on which she formerly served.

Judah, using a raised voice, testified against the bill. When her one minute was up she continued to read from a statement despite being asked by Sen. Ron Young, D-Frederick and chairman of the Senate Executive Nominations Committee, to summarize her statement.

As a female trooper jerked Judah from her chair, members of the audience, the vast majority whom were there to oppose the bill, could be heard telling Judah to not resist the officers.

Judah was led from the room, still yelling her testimony.

“You’re a disgrace! You’re a disgrace,” Judah shouted at lawmakers as she was escorted from the room.

The incident drew an admonishment from a Republican member of the Executive Nominations Committee who called for civility and for those testifying to adhere to the one-minute limit on comments.

“This is addressing this group here,” said Sen. Ed Reilly, R-Anne Arundel, looking into the audience. “We had a comment from a very respected person that was (derogatory) to the state police. We had a lady who was out of control. All this does is embolden those who want this passed and make it harder for us who are working against the bill to hold our position. Please be respectful. Please be on time.”


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