A federal judge has ordered Maryland officials to stop enforcing a law barring state residents from receiving concealed-carry handgun permits unless they provide a “good and substantial reason” to carry their weapons in public.
U.S. District Court Judge Benson Everett Legg on Monday lifted the stay on his March ruling, which struck down a Maryland law requiring applicants to prove that they need to carry a gun for workplace duties or as protection from a specific threat. The order goes into effect Aug. 7.
Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, a Democrat, has appealed the initial ruling and could seek another stay to further delay its enforcement, but gun rights advocates say the judge’s decision puts them one step closer to finalizing a landmark victory.
“We are, after all, talking about a civil right,” said Dave Workman, spokesman for the Second Amendment Foundation, a Bellevue, Wash.-based group that provided financial backing for the plaintiff in the lawsuit. “You should not have to explain why you want to exercise a fundamental civil right.”
The lawsuit was filed against the state in 2010 by Raymond Woollard, who received a Maryland gun permit in 2003 after an armed altercation inside his home but 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.”
Judge Legg sided with Mr. Woollard, ruling that the law functioned as an unconstitutional rationing system designed to reduce the number of guns in public while ignoring whether applicants are fit to carry them.
Mr. Gansler quickly appealed the case to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and Judge Legg issued a temporary stay against the ruling while he considered whether to extend the stay until after the 4th Circuit resolves the case.
The judge lifted the stay Monday after Maryland officials unsuccessfully argued that doing so would create a logistical nightmare if the ruling is overturned by forcing the state to go back and revoke potentially hundreds of permits it approved without a full review.
“The ruling is under review and the state is considering the options,” Gansler spokesman David Paulson said Tuesday. “The state police will abide by state law and the ruling of the courts.”
According to state police, Marylanders filed 5,216 permit requests last year and 251 of them were rejected. Of those thrown out, 179 were denied because applicants did not cite a good and substantial reason.
Maryland officials still have the option to request another stay from the 4th Circuit Court, which could grant the stay temporarily or until after it decides on the case.
Mr. Paulson declined to say whether the state will seek a second stay. He said officials will disregard the “good and substantial reason” clause only for applications received between the stay’s Aug. 7 lifting and whenever a potential second stay might go into effect.
The state will not have to reconsider applicants that it already has rejected.
Judge Legg based his ruling largely on two Supreme Court precedents — District of Columbia v. Heller of 2008, in which the court ruled that the Second Amendment may apply to public places, and the 2010 decision in McDonald v. City of Chicago, which found that the Heller decision should apply in states just as it did in the federal enclave of the District.
Nonetheless, gun control proponents argue that Judge Legg’s opinion violated many other decisions limiting the Second Amendment to one’s home.