Federal Judge Declares Maryland Concealed Carry Requirement Unconstitutional: Why this Matters

As Guns.com reported this past Monday, a federal judge ruled that Maryland can no longer require residents to provide a “good and substantial reason” to legally carry a firearm outside the home, calling the state’s requirement for getting a permit unconstitutional.

This is great news for many reasons, but two in particular (1) the Judge’s ruling provides much needed clarification on 2nd Amendment rights (2) it puts pressure on states (like California, Illinois, New York) that have similar concealed carry requirements to reexamine their gun laws.

Much Needed ‘Legal’ Clarification

Many of you would argue that the 2nd Amendment is a straightforward, fundamental right, one that’s predicated on the notion that we have an unalienable and natural right to protect ourselves.

But I would disagree, at least, in part.  That is, I would argue that the 2nd Amendment is not clear enough.  While it may be clear enough to you, and me, and everyone else who can read on a third grade (and above) level, it’s not clear enough to gun control advocates and their legal team.  It’s not clear enough to pass heavily scrutinizing legal muster.

us map design consisting of handgunsAs a result of this lack of – what I would call – ‘legal’ clarity, we find ourselves currently in a debate over whether the right to keep and bear arms extends beyond the home.

Well, does it?  Of course it does.  But again, the fact that we are even debating this issue clearly suggests that the matter is not settled, at least not in a court of law (or in the state of Illinois for that matter).

So, when a federal judge, like U.S. District Judge Benson Everett Legg, rules that 2nd Amendment protections aren’t limited to the household, it’s a big deal because not only does it reinforce what many of us already know, it does so in a court of law.  And it establishes a precedent for how the 2nd Amendment should be interpreted.

In his ruling, Judge Legg put forth a very logical interpretation of the 2nd Amendment, explicating how it secures one’s right to carry a firearm outside the home.

“In addition to self-defense, the (Second Amendment) right was also understood to allow for militia membership and hunting. To secure these rights, the Second Amendment’s protections must extend beyond the home: neither hunting nor militia training is a household activity, and ‘self-defense has to take place wherever (a) person happens to be,'” Legg wrote.

If and when the Supreme Court takes up this issue (they’ve already passed on two cases involving 2nd Amendment rights extending beyond the home this past year), Judge Legg’s ruling will certainly provide a helpful model for interpreting the 2nd Amendment.

Good and Substantial Reason for Carrying?

The other main reason why Judge Legg’s ruling is important is that it directly attacks onerous concealed carry requirements.

Under Maryland law, in addition to establishing that he/she had a trouble-free history (not addicted to drugs or alcohol, no history of violence, no felonies), a CCW applicant had to provide a ‘good and substantial reason’ why he/she warranted a CCW permit.

It was that latter requirement that Judge Legg found unconstitutional.

“A citizen may not be required to offer a ‘good and substantial reason’ why he should be permitted to exercise his rights,” Legg wrote. “The right’s existence is all the reason he needs.”

He also pointed out in his ruling that it amounted to a “rationing system” designed to limit the number of guns carried outside the home, concluding that the law, “impermissibly infringes the right to keep and bear arms, guaranteed by the Second Amendment.”

handgun in holster concealed carry jeansMaryland is not the only state that has such a requirement.  In California (where I live) there are certain counties (LA County) that have such draconian measures, as by operation of California law, Penal Code Section 12050:

The chief or other head of a municipal police department of any city or city and county, upon proof that the person applying is of good moral character, that good cause exists for the issuance, and that the person applying is a resident of that city and has completed a course of training as described in subparagraph.

What is good cause?  And why should Californians have to provide it?

As Judge Legg so poignantly said, and it bears repeating, “A citizen may not be required to offer a ‘good and substantial reason’ why he should be permitted to exercise his rights,” Legg wrote. “The right’s existence is all the reason he needs.”

Judge Legg’s ruling gives us hope.  More importantly, it sends a message to California, Illinois, New York and every other state that imposes or wishes to impose onerous gun laws and requirements on law-abiding citizens: what they are doing is unconstitutional!

Reaction to the Ruling

Obviously, no surprises here, pro-gun people were happy, pro-gun control people were disgruntled about Judge Legg’s ruling.

“Judge Legg’s ruling takes a substantial step toward restoring the Second Amendment to its rightful place in the Bill of Rights and provides gun owners with another significant victory,” SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb told Fox News.

brady campaign to prevent gun violence logo“The federal district court has carefully spelled out the obvious, that the Second Amendment does not stop at one’s doorstep, but protects us wherever we have a right to be,” Gottlieb added.

“This is a potentially very dangerous decision,” Jonathan Lowy, director of the Legal Action Project at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which supported the state in the lawsuit, told Fox News. “People of Maryland have right to decide who can carry loaded guns in the public places that we all enjoy.”

“I don’t think this is a decision that will enhance public safety,” Daniel Webster, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, told Fox News. “It will more likely harm public safety.”

What are your thoughts on the issue?  Why do you think we’re having a debate on an issue that should have been settled when the Constitution was conceived?

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