By Fredrick Kunkle
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 15, 2010; C01
On a snowy Christmas Eve a few years ago, Raymond E. Woollard was watching television with his family when he heard someone tapping at the windows of his Baltimore County farmhouse.
It was not Santa.
At the sound of breaking glass, Woollard dashed to his bedroom for a shotgun, and the holiday evening quickly became one of the most frightening nights of his life.
There was a hand-to-hand struggle for the weapon, but Woollard, with help from his adult son, eventually subdued the 6-foot-2, 155-pound intruder at gunpoint. Then they waited for more than an hour for police to find their way, on icy back roads, to the home, about 25 miles south of the Pennsylvania border.
That night made Woollard a crime victim for the first time in his life and also one of a select few Maryland residents to receive a license to carry a concealed handgun. But to Woollard's surprise, Maryland State Police denied his request last year to renew the permit, saying they thought the danger to his life had passed.
The agency said it was "because I hadn't been attacked" again, Woollard said in an interview. "They said, 'If you have any problems, you let us know.' "
Instead, Woollard filed a federal lawsuit July 29 to get his permit back, becoming the first person to challenge Maryland's gun control laws in the wake of two landmark Supreme Court decisions that have recalibrated the battle over gun rights and opened the doors to such challenges nationwide. The first, District of Columbia v. Heller, recognized individuals' Second Amendment right to own firearms and struck down the federal city's 32-year-old ban on handguns; the second, McDonald v. Chicago, held that the right also applies to other state and local governments.
Woollard, 62, of the Hampstead area, contends that the right to bear a firearm for self-defense is so paramount that a state agency should not be able to arbitrarily deny it.
"It's up to me. Do you have to show a reason to have a driver's license?" Woollard said. Under current law, the only people likely to carry guns are criminals who do not follow the law anyway, Woollard said. "And the police, as good as they are, show up after the fact."
After the 2002 break-in, Woollard said, he and his family waited 2 1/2 hours for police to arrive. Cpl. Michael Hill, a Baltimore County police spokesman, said records show that the 911 call came in at 9:52 p.m. and that because of icy roads, holiday staffing and the rural location, officers did not arrive until about 11.
The Second Amendment Foundation, a Bellevue, Wash.-based nonprofit group that was a plaintiff in McDonald v. Chicago has joined Woollard's lawsuit against the state police and the Maryland Handgun Permit Review Board. The lawsuit says that people should not have to prove "a good and substantial reason," as required by Maryland law, to exercise a fundamental constitutional right.
"I think that what's going to happen now is, we're going to start to test where these boundaries lie in what is a 'reasonable' and an 'unreasonable' regulation," said Dave Workman, a spokesman for the Second Amendment Foundation, which is challenging similar discretionary regulations in New York and North Carolina.
CeaseFire Maryland, a nonprofit group that advocates for gun control, brushed off the challenge.
"Good luck to him," spokesman Casey Anderson said. "I would have a hard time imagining that the Supreme Court is going to say you have a constitutional right to hide a firearm on your person."
Elena Russo, a state police spokeswoman, said the agency could not discuss a pending lawsuit.
In 2002, there were 4,405 Maryland residents with active permits to carry concealed handguns. As of July 31 this year, there are 47,471 active concealed-carry permits. In Virginia, there are more than 228,000.A private person
Woollard is an unlikely person to become the face of a resurgent gun rights movement. The Navy veteran is an electrician and works for a government contractor in Baltimore, and he said he never gave much thought to using guns for personal protection until the break-in. He said the Remington 12-gauge shotgun he used against the intruder had only been used to hunt deer and smaller game.
His neighbors along Saint Abrahams Court describe him as private. Several said they have heard him shoot targets more often than they have heard him talk. Another said Woollard rigged a motion detector on his driveway, which snakes off the hard road for nearly a mile through fields and past a deer stand and a pond.
But he's not reclusive. Several neighbors said Woollard took part in a neighborhood campaign organized by the Prettyboy Watershed Preservation Society to block Loyola College's plan to build a retreat near their properties. Robin VandeWater, 49, said Woollard called her recently to spread the word that a coyote had been spotted near their homes.
In a phone interview the day after the lawsuit was filed, Woollard described a furious struggle with the Christmas Eve intruder, saying that the man had grabbed Woollard's shotgun, causing it to tumble down some stairs. Woollard's son, Bradley, then 25, got another shotgun and helped subdue the intruder.
Woollard, who said he has not had so much as a traffic violation since 1965, said he did not know the intruder. He described him as "some kind of nut" and declined to identify him. His lawsuit does not identify the intruder, but it says he has been released from prison and lives three miles from Woollard's home.A family connection
Court records show that the man who broke in nearly eight years ago was Woollard's son-in-law, Kris Lee Abbott, 40, who has a history of depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and domestic violence.
After pleading guilty to third-degree burglary in the break-in, Abbott received an 18-month suspended sentence and three years' probation.
Court records show that his probation was terminated unsatisfactorily and that he was sent to jail after a series of violations, including a burglary in Carroll County and a violent confrontation with police in Baltimore County.
After the break-in, Woollard obtained a two-year permit to carry his .38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver. The permit was renewed in 2005.
When he attempted to renew it again, Woollard said he was told that he had failed to show evidence of "apprehended fear," such as police reports indicating that he had been subjected to threats or harassment. The state police denied his application April 1, 2009. The Handgun Permit Review Board upheld the denial in November.
Asked about denying that he knew the intruder, Woollard said he was trying to protect his daughter. "This is about me being denied my permit," Woollard said. "It's not about my family, or my parents, or whoever was there that night."
Staff researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.