Jack Hogan//May 16, 2023
//May 16, 2023
Maryland Gov. Wes Moore on Tuesday signed off on new restrictions for who can purchase guns and where people can bring them, immediately prompting a lawsuit from the Maryland State Rifle and Pistol Association, part of the National Rifle Association.
The restrictions were a response to a June 2022 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that loosened concealed carry restrictions.
In its New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen decision, the Supreme Court ruled that a New York law requiring someone to show “proper cause” to get a concealed carry license was unconstitutional.
The ruling was also expected to affect concealed carry laws in Maryland, among other states.
“Gun violence is tearing apart the fabric of our communities,” Moore said Tuesday. “We’re contending with a world that’s seemingly given up, given up on our ability to actually make a change on this, and that’s how progress dies. But in Maryland, today, we’re gonna be very clear. We are not giving up.”
While Moore said the measures he signed were “commonsense legislation,” a state director for the NRA’s lobbying arm said they “defy common sense.”
“You know who isn’t going to do all of this to get a permit? And who isn’t going to worry about where it’s legal to carry? Criminals. This law will only prevent law-abiding people from exercising their rights,” D.J. Spiker, Maryland state director of the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement.
In its suit, the Maryland State Rifle and Pistol Association is seeking an injunction barring the state from enforcing “these unconstitutional restrictions.”
In response to the suit, Moore spokesman Carter Elliott wrote in an email to The Daily Record, “The NRA thinks more guns on the street is the solution when that is actually the problem. … We’re saving lives while they are politically posturing.”
Beginning Oct. 1, Marylanders with a concealed carry permit will be prohibited from having their guns in public places like school grounds, health care buildings, government or public facilities and certain event sites.
Maryland will also have tighter restrictions for who is eligible for a concealed carry permit.
Current and retired police and law enforcement officers, correctional officers and certain military service members will be among those exempt from some of the new restrictions.
Like Moore, proponents of the concealed carry laws have called them commonsense restrictions.
“The General Assembly has prioritized the safety of our communities by ensuring kids can’t gain access to firearms, making sure people who are licensed to carry firearms in public are responsible and properly trained, and keeping guns out of places where they don’t belong — like polling places, schools, and bars and restaurants that serve alcohol,” Melissa Ladd, a volunteer with the Maryland chapter of Moms Demand Action, said in a statement on the organization’s website.
In a letter sent shortly after Moore signed the bills, Senate Republican leaders said the new restrictions “are a clear and significant violation of Marylanders’ Constitutional rights and will be immediately challenged in court.”
“On April 21, our caucus sent a letter to Gov. Moore encouraging him to veto both of these bills to save Marylanders the expense of defending these unconstitutional bills in court, but those arguments fell on deaf ears,” Senate Minority Leader Steve Hershey and Senate Minority Whip Justin Ready said in the letter.
Mark Pennak, president of the gun rights group Maryland Shall Issue, previously wrote to lawmakers that the measures were “extreme” and “constitutionally illegitimate.” Pennak has said his organization planned to challenged the gun restrictions in court if Moore didn’t veto them.
The Maryland Office of the Public Defender wrote that laws increasing penalties for gun and drug crimes disproportionately impact Black and Latino populations and could also increase the number of people facing criminal charges in areas where hunting is popular, given that hunters may make stops at public places as they travel to and from game lands.
Lawmakers passed 810 bills during the 90-day session, though not all have come before the governor for a signature, including one that would prohibit police officers from conducting stops or searches solely because of the smell of cannabis, possession of the legal amount for personal use or presence of cash near cannabis without other signs of an intent to distribute.
Elliott said before the bill-signing ceremony Tuesday that it was yet to be determined whether the governor would sign more bills.
But both Senate President Bill Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne Jones said before signing bills that the ceremony was the last one of the session.
Any bill that Moore does not sign or veto by May 30 will become law.
Moore hasn’t said publicly whether he plans to veto any bills. Spokesman Carter Elliott said that Moore was still “conducting a thorough and deliberate review of all bills,” but he did not say whether the governor planned to veto any.
There has been a veto issued at every session since at least 1914, according to the Maryland State Archives.l