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Maryland lawmakers are wrestling about all the places people can carry guns amid permit spike

Matt Bush

Maryland lawmakers had their first crack Tuesday at a sweeping bill regarding concealed carry permits in the state and where residents will be able to freely take their firearms.

The number of state residents who applied for concealed carry permits in the last six months of 2022 increased sevenfold after the eligibility rules changed lowering the bar to obtain permits by then-Gov. Larry Hogan.

His move was in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen. By a 6-3 ruling, justices called a New York law unconstitutional for requiring a higher standard to receive such a permit. Maryland’s ‘substantial reason’ at the time was similar to New York’s.

As more Marylanders now carry guns, Montgomery County Democratic Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher told the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Tuesday afternoon definitions of where those guns can be taken must be clear.

The bill Waldstreicher co-sponsored limits guns to 100 feet from ‘sensitive places’ where guns have traditionally been banned. Samuel Levy of Everytown For Gun Safety, a national group that seeks to end gun violence, explained the definition to the committee.

“Sensitive places where the very presence of firearms creates more risk than it alleviates,” Levy said. “On that list you have places where children gather. Places like bars and restaurants that serve alcohol for consumption on premises. Places where people are going to be inebriated where the presence of a gun will make the dangers even more exacerbated. Places where other constitutional rights are exercised, like free expression and demonstrations.”

The bill also prohibits guns on certain properties where explicit permission by the owner of that property has not been given. Initial pushback to the bill didn’t really focus on either of those, but opponents rather tried to conflate the matter with gun violence in Maryland, and in particular Baltimore City.

“The crisis that you’re speaking of, that you’re trying to imply with this bill is not solving this problem,” Republican Sen. William Folden of Frederick County told Waldstreicher. “It is not saving these lives. These lives are being washed off the face of the earth by illegal gun ownership.”

Waldstreicher responded by saying he believes lawmakers can tackle both issues, noting his own support for tougher penalties for repeat illegal gun offenders being touted by new Baltimore City State’s Attorney Ivan Bates. He also noted a study presented to lawmakers just last month from Johns Hopkins University’s Center For Gun Violence Solutions about all the new concealed carry permits in Maryland, and how that might affect gun violence.

“As we learned from the non-partisan folks at Johns Hopkins, research clearly shows that dramatically more guns in the stream of commerce, means more stolen guns,” Waldstreicher told the committee. “More lost guns. More guns used for suicides in our community. And more guns finding their way to criminals on our streets.”

There’s also the constitutionality of the bill, which Folden directly pressed Waldstreicher on during the meeting. The Democrat said he had no doubt about its constitutionality, and noted the last major gun safety bill passed by the Maryland General Assembly in response to a Supreme Court ruling has passed muster so far. The 2013 measure banned assault weapons and high capacity magazines, and was approved in response to a 2008 Supreme Court ruling that negated neighboring Washington D.C.’s ban on handgun ownership.

Matt Bush spent 14 years in public radio prior to coming to WYPR as news director in October 2022. From 2008 to 2016, he worked at Washington D.C.’s NPR affiliate, WAMU, where he was the station’s Maryland reporter. He covered the Maryland General Assembly for six years (alongside several WYPR reporters in the statehouse radio bullpen) as well as both Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. @MattBushMD
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