A gun rights group is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that Maryland owes gun owners money for having required them to surrender their bump stocks and similar devices they can place on their firearms to make them fire faster.
In papers filed with the high court, Maryland Shall Issue said the state’s 2018 ban on “rapid-fire trigger activators” amounted to a governmental “taking” of personal property for which the owners are owed “just compensation” under the U.S. Constitution.
The group is pressing the justices to review and overturn a federal appeals court’s ruling that Maryland owes no compensation because neither the state nor a designated third party put the “taken” property – activators – toward a public use, such as the construction of a school, hospital or road. With its ban, Maryland sought to destroy the activators – not put them to use – the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stated in its 2-1 decision in June.
But Maryland Shall Issue, in its bid for Supreme Court review, said the constitutionally compensable action was Maryland’s statutory ban on previously lawful property under Senate Bill 707, regardless of whether the state sought to put the property to use.
“(T)here is no ‘fairness and justice’ in making these lawful property owners bear all the burdens created by SB 707,” attorney Mark W. Pennak, Maryland Shall Issue’s president, wrote in the group’s petition for review filed last month. “If a ban of these lawfully acquired items is in the public interest, then the costs of the relief afforded in the public interest should be borne by the public, not imposed exclusively on innocent owners.”
Cary J. Hansel, of Hansel Law PC in Baltimore, served as Pennak’s co-counsel on the high court filing.
Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh’s office has until March 29 to respond to the group’s petition.
The Supreme Court has not stated when it will vote of Maryland Shall Issue’s request for review. The case is docketed at the high court as Maryland Shall Issue Inc. et al. v. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr., No. 20-855.
Maryland’s Democratic-led legislature passed the bump stocks ban just months after police found the rapid-fire accessory was used in the mass slaying of 58 people at an outdoor country music concert in Las Vegas in October 2017. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan signed the ban, SB 707, into law in April 2018, prompting Maryland Shall Issue’s constitutional challenge in Baltimore federal court.
U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar ruled in November 2018 that the ban fell within the state’s police powers and did not constitute a taking of property. The 4th Circuit agreed in Maryland Shall Issue Inc. et al. v. Lawrence Hogan et al., No. 18-2474.
Frosh’s office, which has repelled Maryland Shall Issue’s legal challenge, pressed for the ban in written testimony to legislators after the mass slaying in Las Vegas. The office stated that “outlawing devices that allow a mass shooter to fire at a rate simulating automatic fire is an important addition to Maryland’s comprehensive firearm safety laws that protect the public and law enforcement from firearms violence.”