A federal appeals court on Wednesday will consider whether to make it easier for Maryland residents to publicly carry handguns, one of many ongoing legal challenges to gun restrictions throughout the nation.

If the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, in Richmond, upholds a lower court decision, the Maryland State Police anticipate that thousands of additional residents would qualify for permits to carry loaded firearms in public places from Silver Spring to Baltimore.

At issue is the state’s current requirement that residents provide a “good and substantial reason” to the state police for carrying a handgun.

In March, a federal judge in Baltimore struck down that provision of Maryland’s law as unconstitutional and in violation of the Second Amendment.

The case was brought by a Navy veteran, Raymond Woollard, and the Second Amendment Foundation. Woollard was unable to renew his permit in 2009 when the state’s Handgun Permit Review Board ruled that he had not shown a “good and substantial reason to wear, carry or transport a handgun as a reasonable precaution against apprehended danger.”

U.S. District Judge Benson Everett Legg said in his ruling that “the right to bear arms is not limited to the home” and that Maryland’s handgun permit system is essentially a “rationing system.”

John H. Josselyn, legislative vice president of the Associated Gun Clubs of Baltimore, said in a statement Tuesday that the permit requirement has been used to “capriciously and arbitrarily deny” residents a right common in states such as Virginia and Florida.

“When citizens have the means to defend themselves, violent crime rates are reduced,” said Josselyn, whose group represents 29 state gun clubs.

But gun-control advocates and Maryland law enforcement officials warn that putting more firearms on the street would make the job of police officers more dangerous and lead to more violence in everyday conflicts.

“The potential for disaster is pretty significant,” said Captain Dave Gillespie of the Montgomery County Police Department.