A recent ruling by a federal appeals court has declared parts of Maryland’s handgun licensing requirements unconstitutional. The decision, passed with a 2-1 majority, directly challenges the state’s rigorous gun control measures implemented in 2013. This significant legal development follows the precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen.
The contentious Maryland law mandated extensive measures for handgun licensing, including a background check with fingerprinting, four hours of firearm safety training, and a potential 30-day waiting period. Now struck down, these requirements have sparked a heated debate in the wake of the court’s decision.
The court’s majority opinion hinged on the “historical tradition” test established by Justice Clarence Thomas in the Bruen case. This test requires that contemporary firearm regulations align with the historical traditions of gun control in the United States. The court’s application of this test to Maryland’s law concluded that these measures were incompatible with the nation’s historical approach to gun regulation.
This verdict is a significant win for gun rights advocates and a blow to Maryland’s Democrats, who enacted the law in response to the Sandy Hook shooting. Gun control supporters, including Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen, have expressed deep concerns over this ruling. On X, a social media platform, Sen. Van Hollen criticized the Supreme Court’s standard and its implications for public safety, urging a reconsideration of the rule.
The Maryland decision is part of a broader trend following the Bruen ruling, with over a dozen court decisions nationwide overturning various gun laws. Notable among these are the rulings from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in a Texas case regarding gun ownership for individuals under domestic violence protective orders and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Pennsylvania on nonviolent felons’ gun ownership rights. Additionally, a U.S. District Court in Virginia ruled against age-based restrictions on firearm ownership.
Pro-gun organizations, such as the National Rifle Association (NRA), have welcomed the Maryland ruling. Randy Kozuch, the executive director of the NRA’s lobbying arm, hailed the decision as a vindication of the fundamental right to self-defense. In contrast, the gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety condemned the ruling. William Taylor, deputy director of Second Amendment litigation at Everytown Law, argued that background checks and gun safety training are sensible and align with the Second Amendment and the standards set by the Bruen decision.
Maryland now faces a critical choice: it can either request a review from the full Fourth Circuit or escalate the matter to the Supreme Court. This decision will shape Maryland’s legal landscape and set a precedent for gun control laws across the United States.