In a unanimous decision, a three-member panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit overturned a lower court ruling that found the state’s permitting system at odds with the Second Amendment guarantee of the right to bear arms.
At issue in the case — one of many challenging gun restrictions around the country — was Maryland’s requirement that residents provide a “good and substantial reason” to the state police for carrying a handgun.
In a 33-page opinion, Judge Robert B. King wrote that the state has “clearly demonstrated” that such a requirement “advances the objectives of protecting public safety and preventing crime because it reduces the number of handguns carried in public.”
Attorney Alan Gura, who argued the case on behalf of the Second Amendment Foundation and Navy veteran Raymond Woollard, said he would continue the challenge.
“The Second Amendment has been held by the Supreme Court to be a fundamental right. It means we don’t have to prove to the police that we have a good and substantial reason to exercise our rights,” said Gura, who has not yet decided whether to seek en banc review by all of the judges on the 4th Circuit or to petition the Supreme Court.
Four years ago, the Supreme Court used a case from the District to declare for the first time that the Second Amendment guarantees a person’s right to own a firearm. But the appeals court on Thursday did not seek to answer the broader question judges have been wrestling with — whether the individual right to keep a firearm in one’s home for self-defense extends outside the home. Gura also argued the District case.
The appeals court found that U.S. District Judge Benson Everett Legg used an unrealistic standard in judging Maryland’s permitting system: The lower court was wrong to overturn the law because it did not “single-handedly safeguard the public from every handgun-related hazard,” the court said
Instead, the appeals court found that the burden on citizens of proving a “good and substantial reason” is constitutional. The court agreed with the attorney general that the current system fits the state’s “significant interests in protecting public safety and preventing crime.”
Had the court upheld the lower court ruling, state police estimated a surge of 15,000 new permit applicants within a year. Legislative analysts predicted a much smaller increase of about 3,600.
Gansler, whose office defended the law, said the court’s ruling was “critical for public safety.”
“If this had been reversed, any person who wished could have walked in, gotten a gun and [toted] it around in public places with no particular reasons for doing so,” he said.