As a last-ditch effort to stop Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s comprehensive gun control bill, known as The Firearm Safety Act of 2013, from taking effect on Oct. 1, gun-rights groups filed a pair of federal lawsuits this week challenging the constitutionality of the legislation.
The FSA expands the state’s ban on so-called ‘assault weapons’ to include the AR-15 and 45 other semiautomatic rifles, limits magazine capacity to 10 rounds and requires mandatory fingerprinting and licensing for handgun purchases, as noted in previous Guns.com articles.
The first lawsuit was filed on Thursday in the U.S. District Court in Maryland. It argues that the Second Amendment protects one’s right to own semiautomatic versions of military-grade rifles and magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.
The second lawsuit, filed on Friday, argues that the state will not be able to implement the new handgun restrictions fast enough to honor one’s right to bear arms. Currently, the Maryland State Police is overwhelmed with firearms purchase applications, which are required when one buys “regulated firearms,” i.e. all handguns and modern sporting rifles.
The suit claims that the 30-day window in which the MSP has to process the applications might not be met. So far this year, the MSP has received around 100,000 applications, only half of which have been processed.
To meet the demand, the MSP is working 21 hours a day, seven days a week and has enlisted help from data entry personnel at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Department of Transportation, Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, Department of Human Resources, and the Department of Juvenile Services.
Even with the extra help it’s doubtful that all these applications will be cleared in time because more keep piling up at the rate of 1,000 per day. The backlog, the waiting and the new restrictions have not only irked responsible gun owners and first-time gun buyers, but has led many to question who the Democratic governor’s gun bill is really targeting (is it really criminals?).
The legislative vice president of the Associated Gun Clubs of Balitmore Inc., John Josselyn, one of the plaintiffs, said in a statement that the new laws would prevent law-abiding citizens from deciding for themselves how best to protect their home.
“Together we are drawing a line in the sand where Maryland’s gun control agenda tramples the fundamental individual right to defend oneself and family in the home,” Josselyn said.
Other plaintiffs on the lawsuit include the Maryland Licensed Firearms Dealers Association, the Maryland State Rifle and Pistol Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, as well as several other organizations, individuals and gun shops.
Though, from the perspective of O’Malley, the pro-gun groups are misled and the FSA passes constitutional muster.
“The vast majority of Marylanders support these common-sense efforts to reduce gun violence,” O’Malley spokeswoman Samantha Kappalman told the Baltimore Sun. “The new law will take effect on Tuesday, and it will make families safer.”
This opinion was backed by Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, who argued that the law is constitutionally sound.
“Senate Bill 281 was crafted carefully to balance the rights of legitimate gun owners with the need for increased public and law enforcement safety from gun violence,” Gansler wrote back in May. “We are confident that the resulting legislation is constitutional and legally defensible.”
It will be interesting to see how this plays out in court. In New York, which passed the draconian SAFE Act earlier this year, a federal judge allowed the law to take effect. Will a judge see the light and find The Firearm Safety Act of 2013 unconstitutional? Or will he allow it to proceed. Time will tell.