Federal appeals court strikes down Maryland law requiring 'handgun qualification license'
Court decisions after New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen are like “a game of pingpong, where one day one side wins, the next day the other wins,” said Eric Tirschwell, executive director and chief litigation counsel of Everytown Law. Image from Shutterstock.
A Maryland law requiring those who want handguns to wait up to 30 days for a “handgun qualification license” violates the Second Amendment, a federal appeals court ruled last week.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Richmond, Virginia, ruled 2-1 that the law is unconstitutional because it isn’t justified by history and tradition, as required by the U.S. Supreme Court in the June 2022 decision New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen.
The Maryland law requires “a long and winding path” for those who want a handgun, whether through a purchase or a gift, the appeals court said in an opinion by Judge Julius N. Richardson, an appointee of former President Donald Trump.
Applicants must submit fingerprints for a background investigation, and they must take a four-hour-long firearm safety course that requires firing at least one live round. Then, after submitting the application, would-be handgun owners have to wait up to 30 days for approval.
After that, the applicant begins the standard registration process for firearms. It requires an application with identifying information and a seven-day wait for a background check. A separate permit is needed if the applicant wants to carry the gun. The appeals court did not rule on the standard process or carry permits.
The 4th Circuit said a two-step analysis is required to evaluate the handgun qualification law. First, the court must ask whether the law falls within the Second Amendment’s plain text.
“The law’s waiting period could well be the critical time in which the applicant expects to face danger,” the appeals court said. “So the temporary deprivation that plaintiffs allege is a facially plausible Second Amendment violation.”
Next, the court must look to history and tradition.
“Maryland’s historical evidence is scant at best,” the 4th Circuit said.
Maryland had cited laws that prevent dangerous people from getting weapons. But those laws targeted people who were already deemed to be dangerous.
Maryland’s law, on the other hand, “prohibits all people from acquiring handguns until they can prove that they are not dangerous,” Richardson wrote.
The requirement for a handgun qualification license is part of Maryland’s 2013 Gun Safety Act, which was passed after the 2012 mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, according to a Nov. 21 press release by gun-safety litigation group Everytown Law.
In a separate ruling Nov. 21, an Oregon state judge struck down under the state constitution a gun-control ballot initiative approved last year, according to the New York Times. The initiative banned high-capacity magazines and required background checks and training to obtain gun permits.
The Bruen decision has had a “rippling effect” as lower courts grapple with its impact on gun measures, according to the New York Times.
The Supreme Court has to provide “additional clarity” for Second Amendment issues, said Eric Tirschwell, executive director and chief litigation counsel of Everytown Law.
Court decisions after Bruen are like “a game of pingpong, where one day one side wins, the next day the other wins,” Tirschwell told the New York Times.
The 4th Circuit decision is Maryland Shall Issue Inc. v. Moore.