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Maryland gun licensing requirements overturned by appeals court

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Doug Kapustin/For the Washington Post/Getty Images

An appeals court has struck down gun licensing requirements adopted in Maryland following the deadly Sandy Hook shooting.


A federal appeals court on Tuesday struck down Maryland’s licensing requirements for handgun owners, citing a landmark 2022 ruling by the conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court.

Maryland’s 2013 gun safety law, passed following the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was found unconstitutional in the Court’s 2-1 decision U.S. Court of Appeal for the 4th Circuit.

The issue involved key parts of state law, which imposes strict standards for being able to obtain a license to possess a handgun.

Tuesday’s decision comes nearly 11 years after 20 children and six adults were shot to death at Sandy Hook Elementary School and as the United States remains gripped by an epidemic of deadly shootings. This year alone, more than 38,400 people have been killed by gun violence in a country that has seen 612 mass shootings, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

Under Maryland law, an applicant for a handgun permit must meet four conditions. They must be at least 21 years old, reside in the state, complete a gun safety course and submit to a background check to ensure they are not prohibited from under federal or state law, to possess a firearm.

An applicant must then complete an application, pay a processing fee, and wait up to 30 days for a state official to issue a license.

The appeals court ruled that requiring applicants to wait up to 30 days to obtain a handgun permit violated citizens’ constitutional rights, and that “the statutory waiting period could well be the critical moment during which the plaintiff expects to face danger.”

In its decision, the court noted the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen. “made a radical change in Second Amendment law.”

The ruling changed the framework that judges must use to make decisions, stating that modern gun control laws are constitutional only if a similar law was in effect at the nation’s founding. The appeals court ruled Tuesday that Maryland’s handgun law did not meet the “historic” standard set forth in the Supreme Court’s decision.

The state had no mandatory landmark law requiring “prior authorization” before a citizen could purchase a firearm, the appeals court noted.

“We are evaluating options for next steps in this case, which precludes us from any further comment at this time,” state Attorney General’s Office spokeswoman Jennifer Donelan said when asked. asked if Maryland plans to appeal Tuesday’s ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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