Saturday, July 31, 2010

Maryland's Restrictions On Handgun Carry Permits Challanged

The gun rights advocates who successfully challenged the District's gun laws have moved their campaign to Maryland, filing a federal lawsuit claiming that the state's weapons restrictions violate the Second Amendment.

The seven-page suit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore challenges Maryland's restrictions on handgun carry permits. Under state law, applicants must show, among other things, that they are not addicted to drugs or alcohol, don't have a history of violence and have a "good and substantial reason" to carry a gun.

Plaintiff Raymond Woollard, a Navy veteran who once fought with an intruder in his Baltimore County home, was denied a permit because the state found that he could not show he had been subject to "threats occurring beyond his residence," according to the suit.

"He was only denied for lack of a so-called good and substantial reason," said Cary J. Hansel, one of the plaintiffs' lawyers. He said Woollard met all of the other hurdles.

"Imagine a world in which you had to go to the government and show a good and substantial reason to exercise your constitutional rights," Hansel said. "We are not arguing there shouldn't be background checks, fingerprints, mental examinations or training requirements."

The lawsuit comes in the aftermath of recent court victories for gun rights advocates. In June, the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment provides Americans a fundamental right to bear arms that cannot be violated by state or local governments. The decision extended the court's landmark 2008 ruling that struck down the District's decades-old ban on handgun possession.

Raquel Guillory, a spokeswoman for Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler declined to comment on the case, saying that state officials had not reviewed the arguments.

But Guillory said the attorney general's office reexamined state gun laws in the context of the recent Supreme Court rulings. "We have reviewed Maryland gun laws and concluded none of them are so stringent as to violate the Second Amendment," she said.

The lawsuit, also filed on behalf of the Bellevue, Wash.-based Second Amendment Foundation, names the Maryland State Police superintendent, Col. Terrence B. Sheridan, and three members of the state handgun permit review board as defendants.

Hansel said a permit generally is needed to carry a handgun outside the home in Maryland. There are some exceptions, he said, including taking a gun home after it is bought or traveling to a shooting range.

According to the suit, Woollard, who lives on a Baltimore County farm, was with his family on Christmas Eve 2002 when a man shattered a window and broke into his home. Woollard trained his shotgun on the man, but the two fought and the intruder pulled the gun away. Woollard's son eventually got another gun, ending the fight.

The intruder was convicted of burglary in that case and ultimately was sent to prison after violating probation, according to the lawsuit. The man, who was released from prison in 2005, lives about three miles from Woollard.

Woollard's handgun permit was renewed in 2005, according to the lawsuit. He sought to renew it again last year but was denied. The board found that Woollard had not "submitted any documentation to verify threats occurring beyond his residence, where he can already legally carry a handgun," the suit states.

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