Maryland group appeals Anne Arundel Co. gun law to US Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to hear arguments over a law passed in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, in 2022, which was upheld by a federal appeals court earlier this year.

The law requires gun dealers to hand out literature that pertains to conflict resolution and suicide prevention anytime someone buys a gun or ammunition. Opponents of the law say it’s in blatant violation of the first amendment.

“The Fourth Circuit was wrong on so many reasons,” said Mark Pennak of the group Maryland Shall Issue. “They are forcing the dealers in that county to distribute and display, at the county’s insistence.”

Pennak characterized the county’s argument for the law as “no one’s going to believe us when we tell purchasers of ammunition and firearms that they should be aware of these things, so we’re going to make the dealers do it for us.”

Back in January, a federal judge compared the literature to government required safety warnings.

“More particularly, we do not read it to suggest to firearm purchasers that firearms should not be purchased because doing so causes suicide. Rather, the pamphlet is more in line with other similar safety warnings — widely applicable and accepted — that gun owners should store guns safely, especially to prevent misuse and child access,” Judge Paul Niemeyer wrote.

But in the appeal, Pennak used the high court’s own rules in hopes of persuading the justices to take the case, citing the court’s statement that “our ‘leading First Amendment precedents … have established the principle that 13 freedom of speech prohibits the government from telling people what they must say.'”

However Pennak also said that none of what he argues means the Supreme Court will even take up the case, since only about 3% of appeals are heard.

“A denial of certiorari is never construed to be a comment on the merits. So that’s well established,” said Pennak. He also said some other, similar cases have already been heard and those decisions could impact how the court treats this case.

In a statement emailed to WTOP, Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman defended the legislation.

“Public safety is a fundamental obligation of government to its people. We will continue to defend local government’s right to fulfill that obligation,” Pittman wrote.

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John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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