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Maryland Politics
Posted at 04:57 PM ET, 03/06/2012

Legislative committee chairs weigh in on Md. handgun permit ruling

A ruling by a federal judge loosening handgun restrictions in Maryland has drawn different reactions from the chairmen of the two General Assembly committees that take up gun-related bills, with one of the legislators blasting the decision and the other reconsidering his position on a restriction that gun rights advocates have long sought to repeal.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Benson Everett Legg allows Maryland residents to obtain a handgun permit without first showing they have a good reason to carry a handgun outside their home.

Sen. Brian E. Frosh (D-Montgomery), chair of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, said Tuesday that the decision is “dangerous.”

“It’s a very radical decision, and I doubt that it will be sustained on appeal,” Frosh said. “I think we have a policy in Maryland that is safe and sane, and the idea that the presumption would be that anyone who wants wants one can walk around with a gun strapped to his hip or her hip is a dangerous one,” Frosh said.

Maryland law requires residents to show they have a “good and substantial” reason to carry a gun, such as a “precaution against apprehended danger.”

The idea of repealing that requirement has not been a front-burner issue for Frosh’s committee. But the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Del. Joseph F. Vallario Jr. (D-Prince George’s), has repeatedly been asked by gun rights advocates to remove the “good and substantial reason” provision.

Vallario’s committee has rebuffed bills seeking to enact such a change, but he said Tuesday he is taking the proposal more seriously in light of Legg’s ruling. He said there has been a “change in tone” in his discussions with Del. Michael D. Smigiel Sr. (R-Cecil), who has been at the front of the effort to change the law over the past decade.

“We’ll be in serious discussions,” Vallario said, adding the consideration he gives the proposal “will be different than the consideration that would have been given” before the ruling.

But Vallario said his committee’s actions ultimately will depend on the outcome of an expected motion by the state to seek a stay and appeal of the decision.

Smigiel touted the ruling as an affirmation of the argument he has been making for years.

“It is shameful that the Maryland State Police have been interpreting the Constitution in such a way as to deprive Marylanders of this inalienable right,” Smigiel wrote in a statement released Monday.

Legg’s decision came regarding a case involving a Navy veteran who sued after his gun permit renewal application was denied by the state’s Handgun Permit Review Board.

The board ruled that Woollard had “not demonstrated a good and substantial reason to wear, carry or transport a handgun as a reasonable precaution against apprehended danger in the state of Maryland.”

“The law impermissibly infringes the right to keep and bear arms, guaranteed by the Second Amendment,” Legg wrote in his 23-page ruling, which was signed Friday.

Legg’s ruling upends the “good and substantial reason” provision but does not affect other requirements that gun permit applicants must meet. For example, applicants still must show they don’t have a history of violence, are not addicted to drugs or alcohol, and haven’t been convicted of a crime and sentenced to more than a year behind bars.

Gun rights advocates said the opinion could boost efforts to repeal similar laws in other states.

Maryland Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R) on Monday reintroduced the Citizens’ Self-Defense Act, which would relax gun control standards nationwide.

“I applaud U.S. District Judge Benson Everett Legg for upholding our Constitution’s Second Amendment right for law-abiding Marylanders to own and use a handgun in defense of themselves and their family. Unfortunately, there are other local jurisdictions that restrict this Constitutional right,” Bartlett said in a statement released Monday.

By Greg Masters  |  04:57 PM ET, 03/06/2012

 
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