Maryland attorney general wants new hearing in gun licensing case

Anthony Brown, Attorney General of Maryland, answers a question during an interview at the State Attorneys General Association meetings , Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023, in Boston. In exclusive sit-down interviews with The Associated Press, several Black Democrat attorneys general discuss the role race and politics plays in their jobs. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)(AP/Charles Krupa)

BALTIMORE (AP) — After a federal appeals court struck down Maryland’s handgun licensing law last month, the state attorney general is requesting a new hearing where more judges would consider the case, which could have significant implications for gun rights across the country.

On Nov. 21, a three-judge panel on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond issued a 2-1 ruling that found it was unconstitutionally restrictive for Maryland to require people to obtain a license before purchasing a handgun. The process of obtaining a license can take up to 30 days.

In the majority opinion, the judges said they considered the case in light of a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year that “effected a sea change in Second Amendment law.”

The underlying lawsuit was filed in 2016 as a challenge to a Maryland law requiring people to obtain a special license before purchasing a handgun. The law, which was passed in 2013 in the aftermath of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, laid out a series of necessary steps for would-be gun purchasers: completing four hours of safety training that includes firing one live round, submitting fingerprints and passing a background check, being 21 and residing in Maryland.

Several state leaders, including Democratic Gov. Wes Moore, expressed opposition to the recent appeals court ruling and have pledged to fight it.

Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown filed a petition Tuesday asking the full 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to hear the case, which would mean 15 judges instead of three.

“The Second Amendment does not prohibit states from enacting common-sense gun laws like Maryland’s handgun licensing law,” Brown said in a statement. “My office will continue to defend laws that are designed to protect Marylanders from gun violence.”

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