- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 14, 2001

The Maryland Court of Appeals issued a salutary ruling yesterday when it reversed a finding that a juvenile defendant had violated the state's concealed weapons law by hiding a shotgun under his mattress in his parents' home.

The youth had been charged with violating the concealed weapons law after his mother called police upon discovering the weapon. But as the court noted, the charge, if allowed to stand, would mean that anyone who places a rifle in a locked cabinet or even a kitchen knife in a drawer, for that matter would be technically guilty of violating the law by "concealing" a weapon. In order to comply with the law as interpreted by the prosecutors who filed the original charge against the Maryland youth, "a resident or owner of premises would have to keep his guns, his rifles, his shotguns, and every other type of weapon, or potential weapon, in the open, i.e. standing in the corner, on the coffee table, on the counter, on top of the bed, in the center of the floor" and so on. This is an "absurd" reading of the law, the court further added.

Quite so. And for once, a court has repudiated prosecutorial overreach in a gun-control case. The idea that one could be charged with a major "crime" merely for putting a weapon out of harm's way in one's own home is an astonishing concept. It's especially egregious, too, in the sense that such an interpretation would have effectively criminalized the most responsible gun owners that is, gun owners who place their firearms in secure, hidden places out of reach of children and others. As the opinion of the court further stated: "How could a responsible hunter place shotguns in a cabinet without concealing them and violating this statute?" Answer: He could not at least, not under the interpretation used by prosecutors in the case of the shotgun-hiding Maryland boy.

Again, we have clear evidence of bad cases making bad law. Prosecutors may have understandably wanted to teach the young man who had no business owning a shotgun at all a well-deserved lesson. But it was not necessary to imperil the rights of law-abiding and responsible gun owners in the process. Maryland's Court of Appeals issued a sound judgment in this case and is to be commended for its reasoning.

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