Maryland Update – Woollard v. Sheridan

Posted: March 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

As many have heard, a Federal District Court in Maryland recently invalidated the restrictive standards used by Maryland authorities to issue concealed carry permits. The case was Woollard v. Sheridan and was a welcome victory for anyone who has ever tried to obtain a permit to carry in Maryland. Although a great victory, it did not, however, change as much as one may think (at least not immediately).

Currently under Maryland law someone must have a “good and substantial” reason in order to obtain a concealed carry permit. There are four “good and substantial” reasons that I am aware of:

  1. business activities that involve heightened risk, such as the need to carry cash or other ‘street valued’ commodities,
  2. participation in ‘regulated professions,’ such as security guards or armored car personnel,
  3. participation in ‘assumed risk’ professions that involve the ability to restrict or take away civil liberties, such as judges, prosecutors, police officers, public defenders, and correctional officers,”
  4. “personal protection” when the applicant can show “some sort of objectively heightened threat, above and beyond the ‘personal anxiety’ or ‘apprehension of an average person.’

The recent decision in Woollard stated that these 4 reasons impermissibly infringe on the right to keep and bear arms, guaranteed by the Second Amendment, and do not sufficiently “advance the interests of public safety” to justify denying someone their right to bear arms. The very well reasoned decision states that:

A law that burdens the exercise of an enumerated constitutional right by simply making that right more difficult to exercise cannot be considered “reasonably adapted” to a government interest, no matter how substantial that interest may be. Maryland’s goal of “minimizing the proliferation of handguns among those who do not have a demonstrated need for them” is not a permissible method of preventing crime or ensuring public safety; it burdens the right too broadly. Those who drafted and ratified the Second Amendment surely knew that the right they were enshrining carried a risk of misuse, and states have considerable latitude to channel the exercise of the right in ways that will minimize that risk. States may not, however, seek to reduce the danger by means of widespread curtailment of the right itself.

The best line of the Woollard decision (and possibly in the history of courts) came near the end: “A citizen may not be required to offer a ‘good and substantial reason’ why he should be permitted to exercise his rights…The right’s existence is all the reason he needs.

So how does this change things? Well, the good guys (Woollard) won via summary judgment. Because this was a district court (lowest federal court) it will definitely be appealed at least once. Assistant Attorney General Matthew Fader has already promised to appeal the ruling (to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals). Usually when there is a pending appeal the losing party (Maryland) will seek an injunction staying the effect of the lower court’s ruling. These injunctions are usually granted and it is assumed it will be in this case. What this means is that Maryland residents won’t see any change as a result of this decision for a significant amount of time (if ever), potentially over a year.

Hat Tip to our friends at the Second Amendment Foundation, they are absolutely doing as much (if not more) to advance the right to bear arms in American than any other organization!

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  1. Joseph Clark says:

    If we are all under the same constitution why then can we all NOT excert the same constitutional rights in all states? How can the very same second amendment be conceived 50 different ways? Maybe I’am misunderstanding the rest of them,or reading between the wrong lines!

  2. Joseph says:

    Yes, as an analog, suppose that select states decided to limit the citizenship of former slaves to those who “show good and sufficient cause to become citizens”. This would not fly very far.