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Maryland appeals court decision shows impact of Supreme Court’s gun ruling

A Maryland appeals court has shot down one portion of the state’s wear and carry law following a Supreme Court ruling on a New York case last month.

The decision by the Court of Special Appeals related to an appeal of a denial of a wear and carry permit is not precedential, but it is  a strong indication of how the courts may view denials based on a failure to meet the state’s “good and substantial reason” requirement.  The court issued the ruling about two weeks after the Supreme Court struck down a similar law in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen.

The Court of Special Appeals, in its July 1 unreported ruling, ignored William Rounds’ basis for appeal. Instead, it addressed how the state’s “good and substantial reason” requirement was affected by the Supreme Court ruling.

“We conclude that this ruling requires we now hold Maryland’s ‘good and substantial reason’ requirement unconstitutional,” the court wrote in its unreported July 1 ruling on Rounds’ appeal of his rejection by state police of his request for a wear and carry permit. “And were the similarities between this requirement and New York’s now stricken proper cause requirement not self-evident enough, the Bruen Court expressly noted that Maryland was one of six states to “have analogues to the ‘proper cause’ standards.”

Rounds, a Somerset County resident and U.S. Army veteran, previously held wear and carry permits in Maryland and other states since 1980.

He applied for and received the permit again in 2006 after moving back to Maryland. The permit was re-issued every three years.

Each time, Rounds said he met the good and substantial reason requirement because he routinely carries large amounts of cash and purchases silver coins. In 2017, the Maryland State Police rejected that justification. The agency agreed that Rounds was otherwise qualified for the permit and that not meeting the “good and substantial reason” requirement was the only reason for the denial.

Rounds appealed to the agency, Office of Administrative Hearings and Somerset County Circuit Court before reaching the Court of Special Appeals.

The court ultimately ruled that, in light of the Supreme Court decision, Rounds met the qualifications for the permit.

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Brian Frosh could not immediately say how many other appeals of denials of wear and carry permits are working their way through the system.

At least one is scheduled for a hearing before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.

The spokeswoman for the attorney general declined to comment on how the office would handle that case or others, citing a policy of not commenting on pending litigation.

The decision by the Court of Special Appeals and an advisory letter sent by the Office of the Attorney General to the Maryland State Police may well signal a lack of legal options for gun-control advocates.

Last week, Gov. Larry Hogan ordered the state police to stop enforcing the good and substantial requirement. 

Hogan’s order drew fire from some including lawmakers who also wanted him to convene a work group to look at what changes might be needed to the state’s wear and carry permit laws in light of the Supreme Court ruling.

“My point is not to say that the governor should not respond to the Supreme Court or the Court of Special Appeals rulings,” said Del. Luke Clippinger, D-Baltimore and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. “My point is there is further work to be done here.”

State police, who had already been verbally told by attorneys from the Office of the Attorney General that the requirement was unconstitutional, received a written notification the day after Hogan’s announcement.

In the letter, Patrick B. Hughes, chief counsel of Opinions & Advice for the Office of the Attorney General, told state police officials that Maryland’s good and substantial reason requirement is “now clearly unconstitutional, based on controlling Supreme Court precedent that is directly on point. Indeed, the Court of Special Appeals concluded as much just a few days ago in an unreported decision. Thus, the Department is not required to continue enforcing — and, in fact, may not continue to enforce — the ‘good and substantial reason’ requirement in processing public-carry permit applications.”

Other standards and requirements, including training and background checks, remain in place.

“While we are disappointed in the Governor’s messaging the day after a violent July 4, and before the Attorney General could provide complete guidance for how to proceed in this post-Bruen world, this is where we find the state of Maryland’s permitting system,” said Myles Hicks, executive director of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence. “Nevertheless, even without the requirement of need within the permitting system, MSP still has investigative tools at hand to vet applicants. We are confident that MSP will continue in their efforts to keep Marylanders safe by ensuring that only people who are mentally and physically qualified to carry firearms in public are legally allowed to do so.”