Oct. 1 will see new laws regulating guns, where to carry them and how to store them as Maryland continues to grapple with the U.S. Supreme Court decision that upended the state’s former rules.
There have already been challenges to these policies from people who see them as too restrictive.
Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Vice Chair Jeff Waldstreicher, a Democrat from Montgomery County, will go into effect Sunday. The law will prohibit people with concealed carry permits from bringing firearms into public and private elementary, middle or high schools, health care facilities, buildings owned or leased by the state or local government, public or private university buildings, active polling places, electrical plants or electrical storage facilities, gas plants, nuclear power facilities, stadiums, museums, racetracks, video lottery facilities, venues that serve alcohol or cannabis for on-site consumption, and private property unless the owner has given permission to do so.
Gun control advocates celebrated the legislation made by Maryland’s majority-Democratic General Assembly.
“We’re very grateful that the General Assembly is a gun-sense majority,” Melissa Ladd, a campaign lead for the Maryland chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said in a phone interview.
Ladd called the organization’s work with the legislature in the “fast and furious” year since the Supreme Court ruled Maryland’s concealed carry gun policy unconstitutional a “whirlwind.”
But not everyone is thrilled with the legislature’s response to the Supreme Court.
One of two federal lawsuits brought in opposition to the new law was done on behalf of the Maryland State Rifle and Pistol Association Inc. — the state affiliate of the National Rifle Association — and Susannah Warner Kipke, the owner of a gun storage facility and wife of Republican Anne Arundel County Del. Nic Kipke.
Plaintiffs in the case, Kipke et al. v. Moore et al., are suing Gov. Wes Moore, a Democrat, and Maryland State Police Superintendent Roland Butler, alleging that Senate Bill 1 violates the Second Amendment by unconstitutionally restricting where Marylanders with concealed carry permits can take their firearms.
A second lawsuit, Novotny et al. v. Moore et al., was filed on behalf of Katherine Novotny, Sue Burke and Esther Rossberg as well as the gun’s rights organizations Maryland Shall Issue, the Second Amendment Foundation and the Firearms Policy Coalition.
This lawsuit, filed against Moore, Butler, the state’s attorneys from Baltimore City and Baltimore and Harford counties, Paul Wiedefeld, the secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation, and Josh Kurtz, the secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, challenges Senate Bill 1′s prohibition on carrying firearms in more specific locations — health care facilities, museums, establishments licensed to serve alcohol for on-site consumption, and privately owned buildings that are open to the public.
The cases were combined in mid-July.
The 2008 U.S. Supreme Court case District of Columbia v. Heller ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to have a handgun for the purpose of self-defense. But the majority opinion clarified that the ruling was not to disrupt existing policies, for example, the prohibition of guns in sensitive places like schools.
In the 2022 decision in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, the Supreme Court overturned New York state’s gun licensing policy, which required that people applying for permits to carry guns in public demonstrate “proper cause” to successfully receive a concealed carry permit. The decision disrupted the licensing process in Maryland, California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island — all of which held similar policies.
According to a memo published this summer by Giffords, an anti-gun violence organization, there have been more than 450 court decisions analyzing the 2022 Bruen decision in Second Amendment challenges to gun laws.
Maryland’s now-stricken policy required applicants to provide a legal, established reason for their desire to carry a firearm. This was known as the “good and substantial reason” standard.
Following the 6-3 Supreme Court ruling, former Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, called on the Maryland State Police to suspend the good and substantial reason standard, causing an influx of concealed carry applications.
Under the 2022 Supreme Court opinion, states can prohibit guns only in places analogous to those that were deemed sensitive when the Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791 — like courthouses, polling places and legislative buildings.
Plaintiffs in the case against Moore allege that many of the places deemed sensitive in the new law, including schools, bars and places of worship, existed at the time of the founding of the United States but didn’t have firearm prohibitions and, therefore, cannot be deemed sensitive.
The case is ongoing.
Kirk Evans, an attorney and the president of U.S. LawShield, told The Baltimore Sun on Tuesday that, while the Supreme Court did say prohibitions are applicable in places analogous to those deemed sensitive around the nation’s founding, it “didn’t go back that far to tell us” exactly what those sensitive places were.
According to Evans, many places deemed sensitive in Maryland’s new law have the same designation in other states — “and those have not been decided thumbs-up or thumbs-down” as to whether or not they’re constitutional, he said.
“The big thing that makes it much more palatable under the Constitution” is taking out the good and substantial standard, he continued. “Maryland knocked that out … and now it’s a little tougher than a lot of states, but it’s frankly not that much more burdensome than many other states.”
Concealed carry permits and gun storage
Another law going into effect Sunday will limit who is eligible to receive a concealed carry permit.
Under the multifaceted House Bill 824 sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chair Luke Clippinger, a Baltimore Democrat, applicants to receive a concealed carry permit must be at least 21 or a member of the military. They cannot be on supervised probation for driving under the influence or while intoxicated, violating a protective order, or any crime punishable by at least one year in prison. Applicants also cannot have a history of violence against themselves or others, been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility for more than 30 consecutive days or be subject to a protective order.
Before they receive a permit, the Maryland State Police must perform an investigation into the applicant proving that they are not barred from handgun ownership by federal or state law. After Oct. 1, anyone with a second or subsequent conviction for leaving or storing a firearm in a location that is accessible to an unsupervised child is ineligible to receive a permit.
The secretary of the Maryland State Police has the ability to revoke licensure from any permit holder, and must routinely review active permit holder information to determine their eligibility. The law will also increase the maximum penalty for wearing, carrying, or transporting a handgun without a permit from three to five years.
Maryland’s firearms storage policy will also change.
Anyone who stores or leaves a loaded firearm where they know or should have reasonably known that it would be accessible to anyone under 18 is in violation of a misdemeanor punishable by a $1,000 fine. Anyone convicted of improper storage may not possess a firearm for five years.
With so much policy change happening, Evans said it’s imperative for Marylanders to become acquainted with the new laws.
“Most other states have had 20 to 30 years getting accustomed to people carrying around” guns, so they’ve had a chance to get accustomed to nuances, “but this is, sort of, within the last year a brand new deal in Maryland and it’s going to take time,” he said. “Please get to know the law.”