(CN) - The 4th Circuit upheld Maryland's handgun permitting law, reversing an order that said the law's "good-and-substantial-reason" requirement was unconstitutional.
In Maryland, those who wish to carry, wear or transport a handgun in public must apply for a permit and show that they have a "good and substantial reason" to do so. Justifications could include specific threats, business activities or work in a high-risk profession.
Raymond Woollard filed suit after the state denied his request in 2009 to renew his permit. The Baltimore County resident had received the permit initially in 2003 after a harrowing Christmas Eve home invasion for which his son-in-law was ultimately arrested and ultimately sentenced to probation.
In rejected Woollard's request for renewal, the state specifically noted he had not submitted "documented threats or incidents that had occurred in the last three years," nor did he provide "documentation to verify threats occurring beyond his residence, where he can already legally carry a handgun," the court record shows.
The Washington, D.C.-based Second Amendment Foundation, which fought the case alongside Woollard, accused Maryland of unnecessarily restricting the right to carry firearms. Numerous other interest groups filed amicus briefs in the case.
U.S. District Judge Benson Legg awarded Woollard summary judgment in July 2012, striking down the "good-and-substantial-reason" requirement as unconstitutional, and enjoined the state from enforcing it.
A three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit quickly stayed that ruling pending the appeal.
The Maryland Attorney General's Office insisted in a filing that the state law "strikes a proper balance between ensuring access to handgun permits for those who need them while preventing a greater-than-necessary proliferation of handguns in public places that ... increases risks to public safety."
Finding that the requirement "is reasonably adapted to a substantial governmental interest," the Richmond, Va.-based court reversed summary judgment.
"The good-and-substantial-reason requirement was inappropriately condemned by the District Court for being a 'rationing system,' that 'does no more to combat [threats to public safety] than would a law indiscriminately limiting the issuance of a permit to every tenth applicant," Judge Robert King wrote for the panel.
He added that "the state has clearly demonstrated that the good-and-substantial-reason requirement advances the objectives of protecting public safety and preventing crime because it reduces the number of handguns carried in public. That is, limiting the public carrying of handguns protects citizens and inhibits crime by ... decreasing the availability of handguns to criminals via theft ... lessening 'the likelihood that basic confrontations between individuals would turn deadly' ... averting the confusion, along with ... 'potentially tragic consequences' ... curtailing the presence of handguns during routine police-citizen encounters ... reducing the number of 'handgun sightings' that must be investigated ... and facilitating the identification of those persons carrying handguns who pose a menace."
Second Amendment Foundation attorney Alan Gura said he plans to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.
"It's not much of a right if the police can demand that you satisfy their vision of a 'good and substantial reason' to exercise it," Gura said in a statement. "The next step is for courts to tell Americans that they need a 'good and substantial reason' to speak, worship or be secure from unreasonable searches. As a preliminary matter, people should be able to carry guns for self-defense."
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