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Md. Supreme Court will wait on SCOTUS before deciding gun case

Md. Supreme Court will wait on SCOTUS before deciding gun case

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Maryland’s top court will hold off on deciding whether the state’s ban on gun possession for people convicted of certain nonviolent crimes violates the Second Amendment while the U.S. Supreme Court considers a similar case.

The Maryland Attorney General’s Office asked to put the case on hold last month to await the outcome of United States v. Rahimi, a federal case for which the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari on June 30.

Robert L. Fooks, the man at the center of the Maryland case, did not oppose staying the case, according to court records. He is represented by the Maryland Office of the Public Defender.

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s forthcoming decision in Rahimi will surely overlap with the issues and arguments currently before this Court in Fooks,” the Attorney General’s Office wrote in its motion to stay the case.

Fooks is challenging Maryland’s ban on gun possession by a person sentenced to more than two years in prison for a nonviolent common law crime.

His lawyer, Peter F. Rose, told the justices in March that the Second Amendment prohibits states from outlawing gun possession by nonviolent ex-convicts because no similar restriction existed in the United States either when the amendment was ratified in 1791 or when the 14th Amendment extended the right to the states in 1868.

A historical parallel would be necessary for the Maryland statute to survive under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen, Rose said.

The justices were skeptical. Chief Justice Matthew J. Fader and Justice Brynja M. Booth both cited language in Bruen that the Second Amendment right applies only to “law-abiding” citizens.

Fooks was convicted of possessing a firearm after having been sentenced a few years earlier to four years in prison for violating a court order to pay child support.

He pleaded guilty to the gun possession charges in Wicomico County Circuit Court in 2021, but reserved the right to challenge the constitutionality of his firearm disqualification.

The Attorney General’s Office, which defended the Maryland law’s constitutionality, argued in court that any crime punishable by more than two years in prison is serious enough to deny gun ownership rights without violating the Second Amendment.

Maryland’s high court will wait to decide the question, however, until the U.S. Supreme Court handles the Rahimi case.

That case questions whether a federal prohibition on firearm possession by people subject to domestic violence restraining orders violates the Second Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to offer more detail on its interpretation of the Second Amendment, including on how to apply the Bruen standard.

In a brief dissenting opinion, Maryland Justice Steven B. Gould said the pending U.S. Supreme Court case was not an adequate reason to put the Fooks case on hold.

The Rahimi case involves a federal statute, while the Fooks case involves a Maryland law, which would call for a different constitutional analysis, Gould wrote.

“Moreover, even if the Supreme Court’s analysis in Rahimi could be helpful, so what? This Court grants certiorari when it is ‘desirable and in the public interest,'” Gould wrote.

“There’s no need or compelling reason to wait for the Supreme Court’s decision in Rahimi. And in doing so, we are passing on the opportunity to weigh in on an issue of significant local and national importance, which is unfortunate, to say the least,” the justice wrote.

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