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Gun ruling on concealed-carry requirement draws mixed reactions

If it goes into effect, Maryland residents will no longer need a 'good and substantial' reason for a permit

July 26, 2012|By CALEB CALHOUN | caleb.calhoun@herald-mail.com
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Snyder

If a judge’s ruling goes into effect, Maryland residents no longer will need a strong reason to carry a concealed firearm after Aug. 7.

U.S. District Court Judge Benson E. Legg in March struck down a requirement that state residents applying for concealed-carry handgun permits provide a “good and substantial” reason to carry them in public. On Monday, he signed a court order giving state officials two weeks to implement his ruling, according to published reports.

“We’re going to comply with state law,” Maryland State Police spokesperson Elena Russo said in a telephone interview.

About 12,000 Maryland residents currently have concealed-carry permits, according to Russo. 

“Typically, we get about 4,000 to 5,000 concealed-carry permit applications a year,” Russo said. “We approve most of them.”

In 2010, there were 4,717 concealed-carry permit applications, of which 4,645 were approved.

Maryland Del. Andrew Serafini, R-Washington, said that although he supports background checks, he agrees with Legg’s ruling on this requirement.

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“The judge is saying the current approach is not consistent with the Constitution,” Serafini said. “As a state, we have gone overboard in an attempt to eliminate the opportunities to citizens to carry firearms.”

Serafini called the timing of the ruling “interesting,” given what happened in Colorado last Friday, but said incidents like that can happen without guns.

“Timothy McVeigh killed a lot of people but didn’t use a gun,” Serafini said. 

Serafini said he could understand why some are concerned about potentially dangerous people being able obtain a permit to carry a concealed gun under the new ruling.

“I understand their concern, and we need to be prudent and diligent with background checks and permits, and what kind of people carry guns,” he said. “But there are people that shouldn’t have guns but have them illegally, and if other people are willing to go through the process, the current system is too restrictive.”

Legg’s ruling in March came in a 2010 federal lawsuit filed by state resident Raymond E. Woollard after his application to renew his handgun carry permit was denied in 2009 due to his inability to produce evidence of a current threat, according to published reports.

In 2003, Woollard applied for and received a handgun carry permit after his house was  burglarized in 2002. His permit was renewed in 2006, but renewal was denied in 2009.

Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith did not share his opinion on the ruling or the court order filed Monday, but said he does not anticipate any problems as a result of it.

“Restrictions on owning weapons don’t correlate to lower crime rates,” he said. “There’s never been any study that I’m aware of that shows additional gun control lowers crime rates.”

Smith said he does support some restrictions on gun ownership, but, as a police officer, he also respects people’s constitutional rights.

“I’m just looking for some common-sense restrictions such as mental health issues and substance abuse,” he said. “Our job is to follow what the court tells us.”

Maryland Attorney GeneralDouglas F. Gansler’s office is appealing the ruling and could ask the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to delay the order until a decision is reached on the case, according to reports.

The ruling sparked mixed reactions among area residents Thursday.

Dave Pembroke, 57, of Hagerstown, said he does not support the ruling.

“There should be a significant reason as to why you are carrying a gun,” Pembroke said. “If you make access to guns easier, more people would have them and more people would use them. The Second Amendment doesn’t mean without regulation.”

“As long as you’re a law-abiding citizen with no former felonies or anything like that, you shouldn’t have to have a reason” to carry a concealed weapon, said Dustin Snyder, 22, of Clear Spring. “It’s your Second Amendment right to carry a firearm.”

Buddy Threewitts, 18, of Hagerstown, said that while he believes people have the right to have guns in their homes, “you don’t need to walk down the street with a gun.”

“It’s dangerous,” Threewitts said. “You could just have some random thugs out here carrying a gun.”

Dorlene Mills, 51, of Williamsport, said she supports a limit on the type of guns people can have and who can carry them, and she supports the court ruling.

“The government is in our life a lot, and we need some privacy,” she said. “Being a female, I’ve thought about going and getting a gun. We’ve got to protect ourselves somehow.”

Winston Scott, 45, of Hagerstown, questioned why people would  want to carry concealed weapons in public.

“What purpose would you have other than to hurt somebody?” he said. “There’s a whole lot of twisted minds out there, so if they’re carrying a firearm they might feel like they have the right to do whatever they want.”

The ruling turns Maryland into a “shall issue” state, which means it automatically issues handgun carry permits once safety conditions are met.

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