For decades, Maryland has allowed law enforcement officials to decide whether a person should be allowed to carry a handgun. The court noted that the state readily provides permits to people in certain professions, such as security guards, prosecutors and armored-car drivers. Permits may also be issued for “personal protection” if threats can be verified — a threshold gun-rights advocates consider tough to prove.
Maryland’s approach is similar to permitting systems in California, New Jersey and New York. The appeals court on Thursday cited its agreement with a recent decision by the 2nd Circuit, upholding New York’s licensing system that requires a person to demonstrate “proper cause” before a permit is issued.
Woollard initially received a carry permit after his son-in-law broke into his Baltimore County house in 2002. But his renewal request was denied in 2009, after a state board ruled that he had not demonstrated a “good and substantial reason” for continuing to carry a handgun.
The case had loomed over the governor’s sweeping gun-control package since O’Malley (D) introduced it in January. Republican opponents of the governor’s plan to fingerprint and license gun buyers repeatedly cited the case in debate on the Senate floor. They said an opinion by Gansler calling the fingerprint proposal constitutional was more or less worthless until the courts decided whether he had erred in defending the carry law.
State lawmakers had also grown increasingly anxious about the timing of the decision. Heading into the final weeks of Maryland’s General Assembly session, the governor’s bill remains bogged down in the House of Delegates because of a disagreement over which guns should be included in an assault weapons ban.
If the lower court ruling had been upheld, it would have opened a new front in negotiations, advocates warned.
After the decision circulated online through the Maryland State House on Thursday, Vincent DeMarco, president of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, approached reporters and lawmakers with, “Did you hear? This is huge.”