A federal court judge Friday blocked parts of a new Maryland law that limits areas where gun owners in Maryland are allowed to carry concealed or open-wear firearms just as it was set to go into effect on Sunday.
The Maryland Gun Safety Act of 2023 prevents gun owners from taking firearms into schools, hospitals, government buildings, businesses selling alcohol or cannabis, stadiums, museums, racetracks and video lottery facilities.
However, in a lawsuit opposing the legislation filed in U.S. District Court for Maryland, Judge George Levi Russell III issued a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the provisions pertaining to where alcohol is sold, near public demonstrations and in private establishments without the owner’s consent. The suit was filed by Susannah Kipke of Pasadena, the wife of Del. Nicholaus Kipke, R-Anne Arundel, and the Maryland Rifle and Pistol Association.
The ruling means that gun owners may continue to carry their weapons in bars, restaurants, demonstrations and on private property without the owners’ consent as the lawsuit progresses.
“Today’s injunction is a win for public safety in Maryland,” said Senate Minority Leader Steve Hershey, R-Kent, Queen Anne’s, Caroline and Cecil. “Maryland Democrats continue to pass unconstitutional laws to strip away the rights of law-abiding citizens while trying to pass it off as public safety legislation.”
What was blocked in the Maryland gun law?
A portion of the law that was blocked requires business owners to give express permission or a clear and conspicuous sign indicating that firearms are allowed on the property. The injunction reverts back to the previous law, in which businesses would have to state if they ban firearms.
Another portion of the law that was blocked related to restrictions on a concealed carry license holder's ability to bring a firearm into a location selling alcohol.
"Striking those two things down, in and of themselves, eliminates not all, but an awful lot of the problems with (the law)," said House Minority Leader Del. Jason Buckel, R-Allegany, in a phone interview.
“There needs to be a clear line where guns are and are not allowed in public,” said Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher, D-Montgomery, who sponsored the law, which began as the bill SB1. “Senate Bill One (The Maryland Gun Safety Act) clearly delineates between the places where firearms are allowed and where firearms are not allowed.”
Waldstreicher referred reporters to the state Attorney General’s Office for comments on the judge’s ruling.
“We are pleased that the court upheld many of SB 1’s common-sense provisions aimed at keeping Marylanders safe from the scourge of gun violence. The Office of the Attorney General will continue to vigorously defend all provisions of SB 1,” said Jennifer Donelan, a spokesperson for the Maryland Attorney General’s Office.
The remainder of the bill will go into effect as planned on Sunday. Certain individuals are exempt from the law, including law enforcement, members of the U.S. Armed Forces, an employee of an armored car company or a person who has retired as a law enforcement official in good standing from a law enforcement agency.
What prompted the new gun law in the first place?
The bill was prompted by The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen. That ruling rendered Maryland’s previous concealed carry law unconstitutional.
The court’s 6-3 decision in Bruen overturned a New York gun law requiring “proper cause” to obtain a license to carry concealed weapons in public places, declaring it unconstitutional.
Waldstreicher’s bill was written to fit the restraints outlined in the Bruen decision and is a part of Gov. Wes Moore’s “all-of-the-above” approach to public safety, he said.
“The Supreme Court's decision in Bruen really weakened what was a strong concealed-carry permitting law in Maryland,” said Ellen Ginsberg, a volunteer state legislative lead for the Moms Demand Action Maryland. “This is a really important step to make sure that Marylanders and families in Maryland have places where they can meet and gather without the risk of a firearm changing their lives forever.”
Opponents consistently questioned the constitutionality of the law, saying it fails to meet the standards in the Bruen decision.
“The bill will do little to curb the rate of violent crime in Maryland,” said House Republicans in a letter to Moore. “The members of our Caucus are willing partners in making Maryland safer. Senate Bill 1 is not the way.”
Opponents of SB1 often cite the proliferation of illegal guns as an argument against The Maryland Gun Safety Act, arguing that it only makes it harder for legal gun owners to defend themselves.
“In my humble opinion, I just think that when we were thinking about illegal guns on the streets, I'm not sure that this was the best posture to move in,” said Sen. Cory V. McCray, D-Baltimore City, one of three Senate Democrats who voted against the bill.
Gun ownership is a heavily regulated space, and legal gun owners with a significant amount of training are not the immediate problem, according to McCray.
Waldstreicher responded that tackling the issue of illegal guns is not hindered by the Maryland Gun Safety Act.
“We can walk and chew gum at the same time,” said Waldstreicher. “We can both respond to Bruen in a constitutional and responsible way, as well as pass legislation and policies to get illegal guns off our streets.”
Will there be more legislation on guns in Maryland?
From 2011 to 2020 the rate of gun deaths increased by 46% in Maryland, compared to 33% nationwide, according to Everytown For Gun Safety.
Waldstreicher said he’s not done tinkering with the state’s gun laws, given the tragic statistics and he is already looking toward the next legislative session in January.
“There are a series of next steps that involve earlier youth intervention, cracking down on illegal weapons entering our community from other states,” said Waldstreicher, “enforcing against ghost guns as well as gun manufacturer liability.”
Maryland USA Today Network Reporter Dwight A. Weingarten contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on Salisbury Daily Times: Federal judge halts parts of MD gun law set to go into effect Oct. 1