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Md. Handgun Law Found Unconstitutional

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Credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

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BALTIMORE (AP) — Maryland’s requirement that residents show a “good and substantial reason” to get a handgun permit is unconstitutional, according to a federal judge’s opinion filed Monday.

States can channel the way their residents exercise their Second Amendment right to bear arms, but because Maryland’s goal was to minimize the number of firearms carried outside homes by limiting the privilege to those who could demonstrate “good reason,” it had turned into a rationing system, infringing upon residents’ rights, U.S. District Judge Benson Everett Legg wrote.

“A citizen may not be required to offer a ‘good and substantial reason’ why he should be permitted to exercise his rights,” he wrote. “The right’s existence is all the reason he needs.”

Plaintiff Raymond Woollard obtained a handgun permit after fighting with an intruder in his Hampstead home in 2002, but was denied a renewal in 2009 because he could not show he had been subject to “threats occurring beyond his residence.” Woollard appealed, but was rejected by the review board, which found he hadn’t demonstrated a “good and substantial reason” to carry a handgun as a reasonable precaution. The suit filed in 2010 claimed that Maryland didn’t have a reason to deny the renewal and wrongly put the burden on Woollard to show why he still needed to carry a gun.

“People have the right to carry a gun for self-defense and don’t have to prove that there’s a special reason for them to seek the permit,” said his attorney Alan Gura, who has challenged handgun bans in the District of Columbia and Chicago. “We’re not against the idea of a permit process, but the licensing system has to acknowledge that there’s a right to bear arms.”

The lawsuit, which names the state police superintendent and members of the Handgun Permit Review Board, was also filed on behalf of the Bellevue, Wash.-based Second Amendment Foundation. Maryland’s Attorney General’s office was still reviewing the opinion and declined to comment immediately.

Many states require gun permits, but Illinois has a ban and six states, including Maryland, issue permits on a discretionary basis, Gura said. In most of those states, these challenges have not succeeded in U.S. District Courts, but they are being appealed, he said.

“Most states that choose to regulate the right to bear arms have licensing systems that are objective and straightforward,” Gura said. “That’s all that we want for Maryland.”

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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