Second Amendment advocates are finding themselves in a constant game of Whac-A-Mole with officials who support gun control, working to get the courts to invalidate a seemingly unending onslaught of state laws that seek to prevent citizens from having any practical ability to carry a firearm legally.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association vs. Bruen that the Second Amendment prohibits state or local governments from requiring applicants to demonstrate a “special need” to issue a concealed carry permit.
States that included this requirement were known as “may issue” states; others were called “shall issue” states.
That sent “may issue” jurisdictions scrambling to change their concealed carry laws to comply with Bruen, while still limiting the right to carry, despite the plain language of the Second Amendment that states “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
Maryland was one of those “may issue” states, and concealed carry applications there soared in response to Bruen.
“The Maryland State Police has received 11 times the usual number of new permit applications since the court struck down state provisions requiring gun owners to demonstrate a special need for carrying a firearm for self-defense,” The Washington Post reported.
But while newly-elected Gov. Wes Moore, a Democrat in a Democrat-controlled state, eased restrictions to obtain a permit, he tightened them elsewhere – namely, the places where a person may carry.
“Gun violence is tearing apart the fabric of our communities, not just through mass shootings but through shootings that are happening in each of our communities far too often,” Moore said at a bill-signing ceremony. “In Maryland, we refuse to say these problems are too big or too tough.”
Because of the new restrictions, the Second Amendment Foundation, a national gun rights organization based in Bellevue, Washington, filed a federal lawsuit last week.
“They’re trying to imitate and mimic what New York and New Jersey did,” SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb told Newsmax. “They’ll issue a ticket, but once you have it, it’s not good anyplace.”
“It puts a chilling effect on obtaining gun permits, what good is a permit if you can’t use it?”
In some cases, a legally licensed concealed carry holder could face felony charges if he wandered into the wrong area while armed.
SAF had also filed a lawsuit challenging a New Jersey law with essentially the same restrictions and won a preliminary injunction on that case last week.
“The Constitution leaves the states some measures to combat handgun violence,” U.S. District Court Chief Judge Renee Marie Bumb wrote in her 235-page ruling. “But what the Second Amendment prohibits the States from doing, and what the State of New Jersey has done here with much of Chapter 131, is to ‘prevent law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their right to keep and bear arms.’ That is plainly unconstitutional.”
A federal district court also struck down New York’s restrictions.
But Gottlieb thinks Maryland may be a tougher nut to crack.
“I don’t know if that’s going to happen in Maryland, because, quite frankly, they’ve got a pretty good judge from their point of view,” he said.
But the trial court is only the first step in what could be a long road leading back to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“But eventually we’re going to win this,” Gottlieb said. “And I’m positive that, as for these so-called ‘sensitive place’-type laws, the Supreme Court will take them.”
Gottlieb sees some of the current state laws as analogous to taunting “because, basically, what they’re doing is sticking their finger in the eye of the Supreme Court.”
“They’ve almost made these new laws worse than the old law,” he said.
Sure, an applicant had to jump through more hoops to be issued a permit, but once issued, he could carry a concealed firearm nearly everywhere.
In addition to New York, New Jersey, and Maryland, Gottlieb predicts other blue states will soon enact similar measures, specifically citing California as a likely candidate.
“There is no well-established, representative historical analog for the carry prohibitions included in SB1, which appears to be in direct conflict with the Supreme Court’s directive set forth in Bruen,” Adam Kraut, SAF executive director, said in a press release. “The new law bans permitted carrying in facilities where alcohol is served, in health care facilities, and even in museums. These restrictions are facially unconstitutional under the Second Amendment, forcing us to take this action in court.”
SAF is joined in its lawsuit by Maryland Shall Issue, the Firearms Policy Coalition, and three private Maryland citizens, all of whom possess “wear and carry permits.”
Gun advocates note that what makes the new law especially egregious is that it applies to only one class of individuals: law-abiding citizens. The criminal element need not feel hampered by SB1’s restrictions.
Just last year the Greenwood Park Mall in Greenwood, Indiana was the scene of an incident in which a lawful concealed carry holder did not strictly comply with the law.
Elisjsha “Eli” Dicken carried a firearm while shopping with his girlfriend, unaware that the mall was a no-gun zone.
A gunman entered the same mall, armed with multiple semi-automatic weapons, and multiple loaded magazines.
The gunman then went to the mall’s food court and opened fire.
But the rampage came to an abrupt halt 15 seconds later when Dicken shot and killed the gunman.
“Many more people would have died last night if not for a responsible armed citizen that took action very quickly within the first two minutes of the shooting,” said Greenwood police chief James Ison during a press briefing.
The National Rifle Association agreed.
“We will say it again: The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” the NRA tweeted.
Yet, states such as Maryland, New York, and New Jersey want to remove that element of a “good guy with a gun,” Gottlieb said.
“Now you’re penalizing the permit-holders and not the criminals,” he said.
As a result, the law “is definitely making Maryland less safe, because it doesn’t stop criminals from misusing guns. It only stops law-abiding people from defending themselves.”