Marylanders hoping to apply for a concealed-carry handgun permit without providing a "good and substantial reason" will have to wait until a federal court can decide this fall whether the state's law is unconstitutional.
The U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that while the state waits for a final court ruling on the issue, it can continue enforcing its current law, requiring permit applicants to provide documentation that they need to carry a gun for work use or they face a specific threat.
Wednesday's ruling reverses one issued last week by U.S. District Court Judge Benson Everett Legg that would have allowed people to get permits without documentation of threats starting next week. In March, Judge Legg ruled that the state law violated the Second Amendment.
The 4th Circuit's three-judge panel is scheduled to hear the appeal starting Oct. 23.
"The proceedings have been expedited," said David Paulson, spokesman for state Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler. "The state will continue to follow and enforce this law as passed by the General Assembly."
The lawsuit was filed against the state in 2010 by Raymond Woollard, who got a Maryland gun permit in 2003 after an armed altercation inside his home. He was denied renewal in 2009 by Maryland State Police and the state's Handgun Permit Review Board because he could not provide documents to "verify threats beyond his residence."
According to state police, the review board received 5,216 permit requests last year. It rejected 251. Of those thrown out, 179 were denied because applicants did not give a "good and substantial" reason.
Judge Legg's ruling placed him firmly on the side of the national gun debate that believes the Second Amendment guarantees one's right to bear arms in certain public places.
Gun-control activists have argued that the Constitution only guarantees the right to keep guns at home and has called the ruling an overreach.
"Concealed carry laws that keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people are exactly what the public demands to keep communities as safe as possible," said Daniel Vice, senior attorney for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, adding that the court stay is "in the best interests of Maryland residents and visitors."
Maryland Republicans have long heaped scorn on the state's "good and substantial" law, and they said Wednesday they are disappointed to see that it will stay in effect for at least the next few months.
Delegate Michael D. Smigiel Sr., Cecil Republican, ridiculed the court's decision to institute a new stay, calling it the extension of an "arbitrary and capricious" law.
He said lawmakers had largely come to grips with the end of the "good and substantial" requirement and there was bipartisan legislation in the works for next week's special session that would have paved the way for the change by requiring new applicants to only show they have received gun training.
"I'm appalled," he said. "There is absolutely no benefit to the state in continuing to deprive the citizens of Maryland of their right that's clear under the Constitution."
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