To many people Maryland is known as the “Free State.” The nickname dates to a 1920’s Baltimore Sun editorial about the prohibition debate. Today, however, “free” isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind when considering the State’s laws and regulations. In fact, in a 2009 study Maryland was ranked dead last when it came to personal freedom. Therefore, it should be no surprise to anyone that Maryland has some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation. Not much has changed in the state in the wake of District Columbia v. Heller, the monumental United States Supreme Court case which recognized an individual right to keep and bear arms.
In the Maryland Court of Appeals case of Charles F. Williams Jr. v. State, No. 16, Sept. Term, 2010 the Court ruled that restricting gun possession outside the home without a permit did not conflict with the Supreme Court ruling in Heller. The case made clear that Maryland courts were not about to strengthen individual gun rights in the state, even in the wake of Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago, the latter having held that Second Amendment applied equally to the federal government and the states. Judging by this decision and barring action by the Maryland General Assembly, it appears gun rights will continue to be heavily restricted.
Concealed carry laws in Maryland have been slow to catch up to the rest of the country. Currently Maryland is a “may issue” state, which means that issuance of a permit is at the discretion of state authorities. Few permits are issued each year, as the qualification to receive one is quite limited: off-duty law enforcement officers, people who own a business and carry large sums of money or highly valuable material, and doctors can apply to the state for a permit. Individuals who have documented, recent threats of or actual physical violence against them may also apply; however, only around 2 percent of individuals who apply for self-defense reasons are approved.
The biggest roadblock for gun owners in the state, however, is Maryland’s lack of a constitutional provision protecting an individual right to keep and bear arms. Even with the ruling in McDonald, Maryland gun owners are put at a huge disadvantage when it comes to their rights with no state constitutional protection. Certainly Mr. Williams would have had a stronger argument in his case if Maryland recognized an individual right to keep and bear arms. As long as it continues to deny its citizens this most fundamental right, Maryland’s days as the “Free State” are numbered.