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Gun group files final plea for high court review of Maryland permit law

In a final plea that the Supreme Court hear their Second Amendment appeal, Maryland gun-rights advocates stated Wednesday that law-abiding citizens have the same constitutional right to carry handguns outside their homes for protection as the justices said they do inside.

Thus, law-abiding citizens need not provide state police with a “good and substantial reason” for being armed outside, the Maryland State Rifle and Pistol Association added in its high court challenge to a decision upholding the state’s justification requirement for handgun-permit applicants.

In its controversial ruling, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh’s position that the good and substantial requirement was necessary to protect public safety. The 4th Circuit said the justices’ 2008 decision that law-abiding citizens have a Second Amendment right to keep handguns at home for self-protection without needing to provide a justification did not extend outside the home, prompting the advocates’ appeal.

“The need to defend oneself is hardly limited to the home; that is why the (Constitution’s) Framers enshrined not only a right to ‘keep’ arms but also to ‘bear’ them,” Paul D. Clement, the association’s attorney, wrote in the group’s brief to the justices.

“The 4th Circuit’s view that responsible citizens’ ability to carry firearms outside the home is a privilege, to be granted at the state’s discretion to those chosen few who can differentiate themselves from the vast majority of ‘the people’ protected by the Second Amendment by demonstrating an especially acute need to exercise their constitutional right, cannot be squared with the text of the amendment, the history and tradition of the right, or this (Supreme) Court’s precedent interpreting it,” added Clement, of Kirkland & Ellis LLP in Washington. “The court should grant certiorari (review) and reverse.”

The justices are scheduled to confer Jan. 24 on the association’s request for their review. The case is docketed at the Supreme Court as Brian Kirk Malpasso and Maryland State Rifle and Pistol Association Inc. v. William M. Pallozzi, Maryland secretary of state police, No. 19-423.

Under Maryland’s good and substantial reason requirement, the state police may issue handgun permits to applicants who show they need the weapon for personal protection outside the home against a verifiable threat to their safety. The Maryland State Police has granted nearly 94% of the applications it has received from applicants citing such danger, according to the attorney general’s office.

“Compelling interests of public safety and prevention of crime have long led states to regulate the public carrying of concealed and easily concealable weapons, like handguns,” Julia Doyle Bernhardt, the Maryland attorney general’s litigation chief, wrote last month in the state’s request that the justices decline to hear the association’s appeal. “(M)aryland’s scheme is based on compelling interests of public safety and crime prevention, does not ban public carrying of handguns, and grants most applications for permits based on a need for self-protection.”

Two federal appeals courts — covering Washington, D.C., Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin — have ruled that the justices’ District of Columbia v. Heller decision extends outside the home. But four appellate courts — covering Maryland, the Northeast, Virginia, West Virginia and the Carolinas — have concluded that states may constitutionally require handgun permit applicants to provide a good and substantial reason.

The association is joined in the Supreme Court appeal by Brian Malpasso, who is described by his lawyers as a law-abiding Mechanicsville resident who completed firearms training and criminal background checks but was nevertheless denied a handgun carry permit by the Maryland State Police. MSP said he did not provide a good and substantial reason for carrying a gun in public, such as evidence of any concrete, present fear for his safety, Malpasso’s lawyers stated in earlier court filings.

U.S. District Judge Ellen L. Hollander upheld MSP’s denial of Malpasso’s permit application and the 4th Circuit affirmed.