Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down Maryland Handgun Requirements

By Bill Galluccio

November 21, 2023

Gun on table, gavel lying on sound block, illegal use weapon, court hearing
Photo: Motortion / iStock / Getty Images

In a 2-1 ruling, a three-judge panel with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a Maryland law regulating handguns. The judges ruled that requirements to obtain a license before purchasing a handgun were unconstitutional.

Under current law, a prospective gun buyer would need to pass a firearm safety class, undergo a background check, pay a $50 fee, and wait up to 30 days.

In their ruling that the requirement was unconstitutional, the judges cited last year's landmark case, New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, which struck down New York's gun licensing law and set a standard that any gun control regulations must be "consistent with this nation's historical tradition of firearm regulation."

"The challenged law restricts the ability of law-abiding adult citizens to possess handguns," Judge Julius Richardson wrote. "But even though Maryland's law does not prohibit Plaintiffs from owning handguns at some time in the future, it still prohibits them from owning handguns now."

"In other words, though it does not permanently bar Plaintiffs from owning handguns, the challenged law deprives them of that ability until their application is approved, no matter what they do," he continued.

Senior Circuit Judge Barbara Keenan vehemently disagreed with her colleagues.

"Simply stated, the majority's hyperaggressive view of the Second Amendment would render presumptively unconstitutional most non-discretionary laws in this country requiring a permit to purchase a handgun," Keenan wrote in her dissent.

Gun rights advocates praised the ruling.

"This is a significant ruling for the Second Amendment and every American who cherishes our constitutional freedoms," said Randy Kozuch, executive director for the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action. "The Fourth Circuit Court's decision to overturn Maryland's restrictive gun license law sends a clear message: law-abiding Marylanders' fundamental right to self-defense must not be infringed."

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