Federal appeals court hears arguments in constitutional challenge to Maryland gun law News
Brett_Hondow / Pixabay
Federal appeals court hears arguments in constitutional challenge to Maryland gun law

A panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit Friday heard oral arguments in Maryland Shall Issue Inc. et. al. v. Moore, a constitutional challenge to a 2013 Maryland law requiring residents to obtain a permit from the state before they can purchase a handgun. The case is one of many new Second Amendment challenges following the US Supreme Court’s sweeping decision last year in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen. In that decision, the court found for the first time a constitutional protection of individuals’ right to carry a handgun in public for self-defense. Further, the court maintained that any restrictions on gun possession must be in line with the nation’s historical tradition.

The Maryland General Assembly passed the Firearm Safety Act of 2013 following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school. The act established a handgun qualification licensing requirement, which called for handgun permit applicants to pass a background check and take a firearm safety training course. Counsel for the plaintiffs Marc Nadone argued before the court that pre-clearance requirements, like the ones established in the act, had no historical analogue. 

Judges Steven Agee and Julius Richardson, appointed by former Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump respectively, appeared to agree with Nadone’s argument. Judge Agee pressed Maryland’s Assistant Attorney General Ryan Dietrich for a counter to Nadone’s claim. When Dietrich responded with an example from the founding era, a Maryland law requiring loyalty pledges to the United States by citizens or risk being stripped of their firearms, Judge Richardson dismissed the line of reasoning, contending that the law cited had nothing to do with pre-clearance. Dietrich eventually conceded, “We were unable to find any that required advance permission,” to the republican-majority three judge panel.

A US district judge upheld the 2013 law in October 2021, before the US Supreme Court issued its opinion in Bruen.