Maryland Handgun Permit Law Invalidated in Wake of Supreme Court Ruling


The Fourth Circuit Court, seated in Richmond, VA, recently issued a decision in the case Maryland Shall Issue, Inc. v. Wes Moore, striking down Maryland’s draconian “Handgun Qualification License” statute. The decision by the Fourth Circuit specifically named New York State Rifle & Pistol Association vs. Bruen in their decision. The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action supported the suit and the resulting decision.

Maryland has a very strict process for acquiring a handgun. To exercise the Second Amendment right to possess a handgun one must first obtain an HQL. The process of obtaining an HQL involves a 4-hour course with classroom and real-time components that cost several hundred bucks, as well as a background check, including a set of fingerprints. It is not possible to buy a gun with this license. When acquiring a firearm, the individual must go through an additional background investigation and wait another seven business days. Then a NICS check is required when the firearms are transferred.

NRA challenged the law in 2016. The Fourth Circuit reinstated the case after it was initially dismissed. The Fourth Circuit reinstated the case but the trial court upheld the requirement for HQL on remand. NRA appealed, and today, the court unambiguously held that the law could not pass muster in accordance with the Second Amendment.

Maryland’s Democrat governor Wes Moore responded with a statement that reads in part:

The Fourth Circuit Court’s ruling is disappointing. This law does not aim to strip gun rights away from responsible gun owners. It’s about giving every Marylander the right to live without fear.

Baltimore also saw 7,041 violent crimes (reported) in 2022. If Maryland’s severe handgun licensing law was meant to reduce crime, it would appear that the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland may want to try something else because clearly, Marylanders are not “free from fear” at the moment. Baltimore reported 7,041 violent crime reports in 2022. If Maryland’s strict handgun licensing laws were meant to reduce crimes, then the city and state of Maryland might want to consider something else, because Marylanders clearly aren’t “free from terror” at this time.

When discussing the impact of the Bruen case on handgun laws generally, The 4th Circuit says:

Bruen used this framework to invalidate New York’s “may-issue” licensing scheme for concealed carry of handguns. The court concluded that carrying a handgun in public to defend oneself was protected by the Second Amendment because the petitioners are “law-abiding adults” and the handguns “are weapons ‘in widespread use’ today.”

This decision is made at a moment when Second Amendment supporters are worried that their rights will be attacked. Not only because of this, but also due to concerns about rising crime rates, gun sales are at record highs. Second Amendment rights are routinely abused in many big cities across the country. The Bruen ruling could strike down this Maryland law as well as many others that violate constitutional rights and the Second Amendment.

The Second Amendment will continue to be fought for, anti-Second Amendment protesters will use other tactics, and Bruen, no doubt, will be invoked more than once.

The entire 4th Circuit ruling can be read here.