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Maryland's gun laws at risk after Supreme Court strikes down concealed carry permits

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that restrictions on concealed carry of firearms in public violates the Second Amendment.
Al Behrman
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that restrictions on concealed carry of firearms in public violates the Second Amendment.

The Supreme Court struck down New York’s restrictions on concealed carry gun permits in a 6-3 split, which means Maryland’s gun laws may have to change.

Justice Clarence Thomaswrote in the majority opinion that the state requirement for individuals to show “proper cause” to get concealed carry gun permits violates the Second and Fourteenth Amendments.

“New York's proper-cause requirement violates the Fourteenth Amendment by preventing law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their right to keep and bear arms in public,” Thomas wrote.

In response to the ruling, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said that the public sphere will become more dangerous.

“If the norm is that people can carry firearms, our neighborhoods, our streets and other public places will become more dangerous. It will make the lives of law enforcement more difficult and more perilous,” Frosh said.

A study from researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that the estimated average rate of officer-involved shootings increased by 12.9 percent across 10 states which eased restrictions on individuals carrying concealed firearms in public between 2014 and 2020.

Gun laws in Maryland have reduced gun violence, Frosh said. The top attorney will review the court’s ruling to “determine its impact in our state.”

Maryland’s wear and carry permits apply to legal adults who submit fingerprints, have a 'good and substantial reason' for the permit and have completed a state police approved firearms training course. Individuals between 18 and 21 years old are ineligible for concealed carry permits unless they must require a firearm for employment purposes.

Applicants must not have a felony conviction or been convicted of a crime for possession, use or distribution of a controlled substance, or have not shown a “propensity for violence”.

Researchers are wary about more guns on the streets for the safety of both law enforcement and civilians.

"So if laws, you know, loosen and allow more civilians to carry guns outside the home, what we can expect is more law enforcement are going to encounter people who have firearms when they're dealing with often very stressful scenarios,” said Daniel Webster, director of the Center for Gun Policy and Research at Johns Hopkins. “I'm concerned that this will make those encounters more risky, both for civilians and for law enforcement."

Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson and Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates Adrienne Jones issued a statement saying they will review the opinion and “if necessary, pass legislation that protects Marylanders and complies with this brand-new precedent.”

Baltimore City Mayor Brandon Scott denounced the decision. Scott said the move takes the country in the ‘wrong direction’ while hindering efforts to reduce gun violence in Baltimore. The city’s legal department is reviewing the opinion for any implications for local laws.

Not everyone agrees that the decision to deregulate concealed carry of firearms will increase gun violence in Maryland and some lauded the court decision.

“Permit holders are indisputably the most law abiding people in the surface of the planet," argued Mark Pennak, president of Maryland Shall Issue, a gun rights advocacy group. "Allowing people to carry a handgun under a state licensing scheme, somehow it results in more violence, it's just false."

U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown, a Democrat who represents Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties, said in a statement the decision “from six conservative Supreme Court justices” threatened the safety of communities.

People’s “second amendment rights do not trump the rights of their neighbors to live without fear in their daily lives,” Brown said.

U.S. Senator and Democrat Ben Cardin said in a statement that the “conservative justices of the Supreme Court continue to chip away at public safety.”

The decision, he wrote “will unnecessarily put more guns on our streets.”

Maryland Democratic Party Chair Yvette Lewis echoed those concerns.

"Our state has seen far too much gun violence and we’ve lost far too many young Marylanders to this issue," Lewis said. "While states like ours work tirelessly to push back against increasing gun violence, SCOTUS insists on undermining our efforts."

Kristen Mosbrucker is a digital news editor and producer for WYPR. @k_mosbrucker
Joel McCord is a trumpet player who learned early in life that that’s no way to make a living.
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