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Maryland trying to expand ‘gun free zones’ as concealed carry permits soar

A concealed handgun. (Dreamstime/TNS)
February 09, 2023

The state of Maryland has seen a seven-fold increase in concealed carry permit applications since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in June that ruled that laws that limited access to concealed carry permits. Now, gun control advocates in the Maryland legislature are bringing several new bills to limit access to guns, including broadly expanding the number of gun free zones throughout the state.

In it’s June 2022 decision, the Supreme Court found unconstitutional a New York law that requires concealed carry permit applications to explain their reasoning for seeking a permit and lets state bureaucrats make a judgement call on whether those reasons are valid. The decision affected several other states with similar laws, including Maryland.

Data provided by the Maryland State Police to the Herald Mail shows the state processed 79,983 concealed carry permit applications from the day of the Supreme Court decision in June through to the end of 2022 and recorded 85,266 total applications for the year. By comparison, the state had recorded 12,189 concealed carry permit applications received in all of 2021, and 11,512 in 2020.

Back when the state could broadly deny concealed carry permit applications at their own discretion, relatively few people sought such applications. Now that applications are soaring, state lawmakers are looking at several ways to limit access to guns.

A Maryland bill would impose a misdemeanor offense, punishable with up to one year in prison, if they knowing carry a firearm within 100 feet of a place of public accommodation. Such places are defined in state law as all hotels and lodging for travelers, restaurants, theaters, concert halls and sports arenas and all retail establishments. The bill automatically declares all real property as gun free zones and requires the owners of those properties to give express permission for people to carry on their property.

Democratic Maryland State Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher, introduced the bill, asking, “What kind of world do we want our children to inherit? It’s deeply personal for me. It could be a world awash with firearms everywhere and that’s just not a world, not a country, not a state I’m willing to accept.”

While the law has yet to pass, a federal judge is hearing a case on a similar concealed carry ban adopted as an ordnance in Montgomery County, Maryland. If a judge stikes down that ordnance it could carry implications for the state-wide law Waldstreicher is seeking.

The gun rights activists seeking to overturn Montgomery County’s new ordnance argued “it is nearly impossible to move around the County without entering one or more of the hundreds, if not thousands, of the 100-yard exclusion zones” that the ordnance created. “That result effectively nullifies the use of a wear and carry permit virtually everywhere in the County and thus completely denies the plaintiffs the ability to exercise their Second Amendment rights.”

In addition to the bill broadly expanding zones where concealed carry is prohibited, gun control advocates in the state assembly are seeking to raise the age to buy rifles and shotguns from 18 to 21. 

Waldstreicher is also seeking to allow lawsuits against gun makers under the state’s public nuisance law, circumventing a federal law that broadly protects gun industry members from lawsuits over the criminal misuse of their products. Waldstreicher’s bill on that matter states that members of the gun industry including gun makers and retailers must implement unspecified “reasonable controls” over the sale, manufacture, distribution, importation, marketing, possession and use of their products.