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Montgomery County’s gun ban draws Second Amendment challenge

Montgomery County’s new law prohibiting gun possession within 100 yards of a park, religious institution, hospital or other enumerated “place of public assembly” has essentially created a countywide ban in violation of the constitutional right to keep and bear arms, a gun rights group stated Tuesday in seeking a federal court order striking down the statute.

“In short, it is simply impossible, as a practical matter, to possess and transport a firearm in the county in public with a wear and carry permit in compliance with (the law),” Maryland Shall Issue wrote in papers filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.

“That is because it is nearly impossible to move around the county without entering one or more 100-yard exclusion zones enacted by Bill 21-22E,” MSI added. “Literally, the entire urban area and many areas in the rural segments of the county are now off-limits for carry by permit holders, including Interstate 495 and Interstate 270 and Route 355 as well as the other major roads, highways and countless neighborhoods in the county.”

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich signed the bill into law Monday.

The county council passed the measure Nov. 15 on a vote of 8-0.

“I continue to believe that guns create immeasurably more problems, often with tragic consequences, than they attempt to solve,” Council President Gabe Albornoz, the bill’s chief sponsor, said in a statement after the vote. “This legislation will help to ensure that we do everything possible to minimize the number of guns in our public space.”

The law does not apply to law enforcement personnel and licensed security guards.

In its legal challenge, MSI said the U.S. Supreme Court has definitively held that gun possession can be restricted only in courthouses, polling places, schools, government buildings and legislative assemblies.

To prohibit possession elsewhere requires a governmental showing that guns were restricted in those or analogous locations when the Second Amendment was adopted in 1791 or when the 14th Amendment extended the right to keep and bear arms to the states in 1868, MSI stated, citing the Supreme Court’s June decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen.

No such analogy exists for the places expressly listed as gun-free in the county law, including fairgrounds, recreational facilities, conference centers, libraries, and childcare centers, wrote MSI President Mark W. Pennak, an attorney.

“In enacting Bill 21-22E after the Supreme Court’s decision in Bruen, the county made no effort to identify any historical analog for the restrictions and bans imposed” by the law, Pennak added. “Nor is there any appropriate historical analog for any such regulation within 100 yards of such locations.”

Edward B. Lattner, of the Montgomery County Attorney’s Office, declined to comment Wednesday in light of the pending litigation.

The case, pending before U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang, is docketed as Maryland Shall Issue Inc. et al. v. Montgomery County, Md., No. 8:21-cv-01736-TDC.