Resistance grows to lawsuit to overturn Maryland gun law

GOP delegate says referendum has more staying power

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A Maryland delegate says a plan by the nation’s leading gun rights group to file a lawsuit to overturn the state’s recently passed firearms bill is meeting some resistance among activists.

Delegate Patrick L. McDonough, Baltimore County Republican, said he is aware of two groups that hope to buck the plans of the National Rifle Association and press on with efforts to put the recent legislation before voters in November 2014.

“With a lawsuit the problem is it can be thrown out in a New York minute,” Mr. McDonough said. “That could always happen, and if you don’t have a referendum, then you’re stuck. A lawsuit can always be filed in the future, after the referendum.”

Mr. McDonough said he is not spearheading the effort but would lend his support to the groups as they work to submit the required paperwork and craft a petition for signatures.

A petition must be approved by the State Board of Elections and Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, and once it’s given the go ahead, petitioners must collect 55,736 signatures by June 1. If an issue is put to referendum, the law is suspended until the election, which in the case of the firearms act, would mean it would not take affect for at least 17 months.

That means gun owners “retain their constitutional rights” for another year, Mr. McDonough said. It also buys time for gun owners to register to vote and become active in campaigns and volunteer opportunities.

“There’s a lot of grass-root political benefits,” Mr. McDonough said.

A spokesman for the Board of Elections said that as of Monday no paperwork had been filed for a referendum aside from an earlier submission by online petition service MDPetitions.com. Delegate Neil C. Parrott, Washington Republican who is chairman of the site, made the surprising announcement last week that instead of pursuing the referendum he would be lending his support to the lawsuit alongside several Maryland gun rights groups.

Speaking at last week’s announcement in Jessup, Maryland Shall Issue President Patrick Shomo said he anticipated that the lawsuit approach would be met with some opposition.

“We’ll hear a lot of voices that don’t agree with this,” he said, adding that the potential for delaying the law’s enforcement for another year is a “real temptation.”

“There’s a real value in that,” Mr. Shomo said. “But we want to take this head on. We’re not going to ask Maryland voters to do the dirty work for us.”

The Maryland liaison for the NRA said last week that the group’s primary concern with the law is that its restrictions on the number and kind of firearms a person can own make it unconstitutional.

Along with limiting handgun magazines to no more than 10 rounds, the law puts 45 guns on a banned list of assault weapons and requires prospective gun buyers to obtain a gun license. They must also submit their fingerprints as part of the application process.

Kurt Klukowski, a faculty member at Liberty University School of Law and a Second Amendment lawyer, said a referendum would complicate the NRA’s efforts because a party must show an “actual, concrete and traceable” injury for a standing lawsuit.

“If a referendum were to pass, then the injury becomes hypothetical,” he said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen.”

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