Nov 21 (Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court ruled on Tuesday that Maryland’s licensing requirements for people who want to buy handguns are unconstitutional, citing a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that expanded the right to carry a weapon.
A three-judge panel of the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-1 to block a 2013 Maryland law requiring people to undergo training and background checks before applying for licenses to purchase handguns, saying it violated the right to “keep and bear arms” under the Second Amendment of the US Constitution.
A 2022 Supreme Court decision in a case called New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v Bruen required gun laws to be “consistent with the nation’s historical tradition of firearms regulation” to survive a Second Amendment challenge.
“Maryland has not shown that this regime is consistent with our nation’s historic tradition of regulating firearms,” U.S. District Judge Julius Richardson, appointed by former Republican President Donald Trump, wrote in the ruling.
Richardson called Maryland’s law “an additional, preliminary step” that subjects law-abiding people to a 30-day waiting period before they can begin the normal process of acquiring a firearm through a separate background check system.
Randy Kozuch, executive director of the National Rifle Association’s Legal Action Institute, its lobbying arm, called it “a landmark decision for the Second Amendment and every American who values our constitutional freedoms.”
The NRA supported the lawsuit that challenged the law and covered the legal costs of the litigation, an NRA spokesman said.
A spokesman for Maryland Attorney General Andrew Brown, a Democrat who defends the law, said his office is “weighing options for next steps in this case.”
At issue was a qualification licensing requirement for handguns passed as part of Maryland’s Firearm Safety Act of 2013, a broader gun control measure.
Prospective gun buyers were required to provide fingerprints for investigation and complete a four-hour safety training course. They will then wait up to 30 days before going through the rest of the normal gun purchase process.
A gun rights group called Maryland Shall Issue filed a lawsuit in 2016 along with two individuals and a gun store, claiming the restrictions violate the Second Amendment. But a lower court judge twice rejected their requests, prompting the appeal.
On Tuesday, Richardson said that in 2022, the Supreme Court “made a sea change in Second Amendment law” when it struck down New York state’s restrictions on carrying concealed handguns outside the home. The test set forth in that decision led to a series of court decisions striking down federal and state restrictions on firearms.
Maryland said the law reflects historical restrictions on “dangerous” people owning firearms. But Richardson said no historical laws have worked by “preemptively depriving all citizens of firearms to keep them out of dangerous hands.”
U.S. District Judge Barbara Milano Keenan, an appointee of former Democratic President Barack Obama, dissented, saying the court’s majority reasoning “would presumptively render unconstitutional most of the non-discretionary laws in this country requiring a permit to purchase a handgun.” .
Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston Editing by Will Dunham and Alexia Garamfalvi
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Nate Raymond reports on the federal court system and litigation. He can be reached at [email protected].