Maryland dealers said they were seeing unprecedented sales in the hours before stringent new gun laws were to take effect Tuesday.
But even as state officials prepared to enact the restrictions, a federal judge was expected to consider a last-minute bid by opponents to block their implementation.
A U.S. District Court judge in Baltimore was scheduled to hear arguments at 11 a.m. Tuesday from plaintiffs in a lawsuit seeking to declare the Firearms Safety Act of 2013 unconstitutional. The plaintiffs filed for a temporary restraining act to block the new laws, which are considered to be among the toughest in the nation.
Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler’s office argued in court papers filed Monday that the very fact that plaintiffs waited six months from the time the General Assembly passed the act to challenge it should preclude them from having a judge grant their motion for a temporary restraining order.
“Notwithstanding their keen awareness of, and vehement opposition to, this legislation even before it was enacted, the plaintiffs made a calculated decision to wait to bring their legal challenge until the eve of the law’s effective date,” state lawyers wrote in response to the motion.
Along with limiting handgun magazines to 10 rounds, the Maryland law adds 45 guns to a list of banned assault weapons and requires gun buyers to submit their fingerprints and obtain handgun-qualification licenses.
The lawsuit argues, among other things, that the new laws violate the Second Amendment by arbitrarily outlawing certain guns and prohibiting features and accessories that promote their effective and efficient use. It also says the prohibition on magazines holding more than 10 rounds is unusual and limits a gun owner’s ability to defend himself.
The state’s 30-page memo takes issue with plaintiffs’ claims that they have a likelihood of success in their case and that they will suffer irreparable harm if the law goes into effect — both elements of which must be proved to get a temporary restraining order to block the act.
The memo also suggested that the plaintiffs’ decision to wait until two business days before the law’s effective date might have been “economically rational,” given that gun stores have profited from a dramatic uptick in gun sales in advance of the law.
“These claims of economic harm from the firearms dealers are particularly ironic, given the significant surge in sales of the weapons and magazines at issue in the months leading up to the effective date,” lawyers said in a footnote to the memo.
Representatives for the gun stores involved in the lawsuit declined to comment, and an attorney for the plaintiffs did not respond to messages.
But gun stores across the state did brisk business Monday as prospective gun buyers attempted to complete their purchases ahead of the deadline.
Al Koch, store manager at Bart’s Sports World, a Glen Burnie-based gun shop, said Monday that for the past three days a line of people had been waiting for the store to open, and he even opened his doors on Sunday — normally an off business day — so that buyers could pick up the guns they purchased.
“It’s been incredible the past two weeks,” Mr. Koch said. “As of yesterday, we had no handguns to sell. We sold them all. We’re waiting for more to come in.”
Neil Kravitz, vendor of Nsk Sales Co. in Baltimore County, said that he just returned from the Maryland State Police offices, where he handed over a 4-inch stack of gun-transfer papers.