21 State Attorneys General Ask Supreme Court to Void Maryland Gun Law

A coalition of 21 state attorneys general is asking the Supreme Court to strike down a Maryland law that denies concealed carry permits, unless applicants can convince local officials they have a “good and substantial reason” to be granted one by local authorities.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, a Republican, and the other state officials filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Supreme Court on Dec. 18 in a case cited as Malpasso v. Pallozzi. Morrisey and the others want to expand the scope of protection afforded to gun-ownership rights after the high court ruled in District of Columbia v. Heller (2010), that the right to possess a firearm is an individual right, and in McDonald v. Chicago (2012), that the right of an individual to “keep and bear arms” applies to the states.

Apart from West Virginia, the other states that participated in the brief are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and Utah.

The question that former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, a veteran of Second Amendment battles, put before the court in the petition for certiorari filed Sept. 26, is, “Whether the Second Amendment allows the government to prohibit typical, law-abiding citizens from carrying handguns outside the home for self-defense in any manner.”

There are 41 states that have enacted what are called shall-issue licensing regimes that allow all law-abiding citizens who meet objective criteria to lawfully carry handguns outside the home.

The Maryland law “reduces that fundamental right to a privilege—one the state grants only to the rare citizen who can demonstrate to a bureaucrat’s satisfaction that he or she is in dire-enough straits to warrant carrying a handgun,” Morrisey said in a statement.

The right to self-defense, “no less than the threats that might precipitate a need to act in self-defense, necessarily extends beyond the four walls of one’s home,” Clement’s petition states.

“That conclusion is compelled by the text and structure of the Second Amendment, by the history of the right it protects, and by any fair reading of Heller. Consistent with that understanding, the vast majority of states protect the right of their citizens to carry handguns outside the home for self-defense. But a small minority persist in denying that right to typical, law-abiding citizens, instead reserving it to only a small subset of individuals who can demonstrate that they have a particularized need to exercise the right that the Second Amendment guarantees to all ‘the people.’”

William M. Pallozzi, Maryland Secretary of State Police, who was appointed by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, responded in a brief that his state doesn’t ban the public carrying of handguns.

“Instead, it allows a lawful owner of a handgun to wear, carry, or transport the handgun without a permit in a public place in connection with a wide range of activities and with a permit where the applicant has a good and substantial reason, including to provide protection from apprehended danger. Historically, Maryland has granted the overwhelming majority of permit applications based on a claimed good and substantial reason.”

The Supreme Court currently has one gun-control case already before it.

The court heard oral arguments in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. City of New York on Dec. 2. A decision is expected in coming months.

The litigation involves a Trump administration-backed challenge to New York City’s uniquely restrictive gun laws that make it burdensome for law-abiding gun owners to transport their weapons. Although it was the court’s first gun rights case in nine years, raising expectations among gun-rights activists that the court was poised to expand the reach of the Second Amendment, it’s unclear if the justices will actually reach the merits of the case.

That’s because the hearing was dominated by debate about what lawyers call “mootness,” that is, whether there was still an active controversy remaining for the court to adjudicate after the city changed the law in an attempt to dodge review by the court.

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