Opinion

Concealed carry wins important victory in Maryland

The anti-gun lobby has been cheering a recent federal court decision written by District Court Judge Susan Myerscough that prevents law-abiding citizens from carrying a firearm for protection outside their homes.

Earlier this week, however, Second Amendment advocates scored a major victory when a federal judge struck down onerous restrictions on gun owners in Maryland. According to those restrictions, Maryland citizens could carry a weapon, either open or concealed, with a license, but only if they had a “good and substantial” reason. Of course, the definition of “good and substantial” was subject to interpretation by state officials. For example, a Marylander could be issued a license to carry a firearm if she dealt in “business activities that involve heightened risk,” but not if she simply harbored a legitimate fear of being attacked on the street.

Maryland’s law was obviously written to discourage citizens from carrying firearms, and was no doubt based on the same old, tired and otherwise disproven arguments to keep firearms out of the hands of law-abiding citizens. Thankfully, U.S. District Court Judge Benson Everett Legg ruled that the law is unconstitutional, finding it to be overly broad — what amounts to a “rationing system” for gun ownership.

In his thoughtfully worded opinion, Judge Legg writes 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.”

Most importantly, perhaps, Judge Legg understands that “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.” As he eloquently concluded, “States may not, however, seek to reduce the danger [of guns] by means of widespread curtailment of the right itself.”

This ruling, as much as gun control advocates decry it, is wholly consistent with the spirit of the two most recent Supreme Court decisions upholding the Second Amendment’s guarantee that people have a right to possess firearms: Heller (2008) and McDonald (2010).

Maryland is expected to appeal this decision, but Judge Legg’s opinion and reasoning is sound. Hopefully it will form the basis for a definitive Supreme Court decision in support of concealed carry.

Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He provides regular commentary to Daily Caller readers.