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Appeals Court Knocks Down Maryland’s Handgun Licensing Law

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Gun, gavel, and bullets

In a two-to-one decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that Maryland’s handgun licensing law is unconstitutional.

The case, called Maryland Shall Issue, Inc. (and plaintiffs) v. Wes Moore, dates back to 2016 and challenges a part of Maryland’s Firearm Safety Act of 2013, specifically the handgun-qualification-license requirement and the mandatory 30 day waiting period.

The case was initially dismissed for lack of standing. The Appeals court then reversed and remanded for a decision based on the merits of the case. The District court again ruled against plaintiffs finding the law did not violate the Second Amendment.

The ruling today resulted in a reversal of the District Court’s previous decision and sets extremely significant precedent that finally acknowledges the standard set forth in Bruen.

Writing for the Majority, Judge Richardson (joined by Judge Agee, Judge Keenan dissenting) stated candidly:

And Plaintiffs’ challenge must succeed. The challenged law restricts the ability of law-abiding adult citizens to possess handguns, and the state has not presented a historical analogue that justifies its restriction; indeed, it has seemingly admitted that it couldn’t find one. Under the Supreme Court’s new burden-shifting test for these claims, Maryland’s law thus fails, and we must enjoin its enforcement. So we reverse the district court’s contrary decision.

With a simple reference to what has become one of the most powerful cases to uphold the Second Amendment in decades, Judge Richardson acknowledges that the onus is on the State to provide analogous laws that constrain or prohibit a law-abiding, non-dangerous citizen’s rights. And it not only appears one doesn’t exist, but the State couldn’t conjure up anything close. (The court rejected the State’s reference to militia training laws as those did not apply to all gun owners, only militia members.)

Such precedent will be a strong arrow in the quiver for those challenging permitting schemes in liberal, anti-gun states like New Jersey, which finally started issuing permits en masse last year.

In a powerful summary, Judge Richardson excoriated the District Court for its continual misapplication of Bruen:

In sum, my colleagues turn their back on the shall-issue discussion in Bruen. As a result, unable to pound a “shall-issue” law into a framework designed for a “may-issue” regime, the majority fails to produce a legally defensible and workable template for the analysis of “shall-issue” laws. And we are left with the lingering question why the majority ignores the Court’s clear guidance on the very issue before us.

Firearms Policy Coalition, Inc., FPC Action Foundation and the Independence Institute all provided significant support in this case.

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