Last March, in a victory for Maryland gun owners, a federal judge ruled in the case of Woollard v. Sheridan that a key provision of the state’s gun laws was unconstitutional. Judge Benson Everett Legg declared that Maryland's requirement for a "good and substantial reason" to obtain a concealed-carry permit violates the Second Amendment protection of the right to keep and bear arms.
"The Court finds that the right to bear arms is not limited to the home," Judge Legg wrote in his 23-page ruling. "In addition to self-defense, the right was also understood to allow for militia membership and hunting. To secure these rights, the Second Amendment’s protections must extend beyond the home: neither hunting nor militia training is a household activity, and 'self-defense has to take place wherever [a] person happens to be.'’'
Judge Legg added, "A citizen may not be required to offer a 'good and substantial reason' why he should be permitted to exercise his rights. The right's existence is all the reason he needs."
Maryland appealed the decision. According to a BaltimoreSun.com article, this week a federal appeals court upheld Maryland's handgun permitting law, reversing a lower court decision by concluding that the state can constitutionally require an applicant to show “good and substantial reason” that he or she needs a concealed-carry license.
In the court’s opinion, Judge Robert King said the state had shown that the requirement “is reasonably adapted” to its “significant interests in protecting public safety and preventing crime.”
Though Woollard is not an NRA-funded case, it is one of several cases around the country that have sought to make clear that the right to bear arms for personal protection applies outside the home. Among them are the NRA-supported cases of Shepard v. Madigan, decided in December in the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, and Peruta v. County of San Diego, pending in the Ninth Circuit.
In Shepard v. Madigan, a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit ruled on December 11, 2012, that Illinois' total ban on carrying firearms for self-defense outside the home or business is unconstitutional. On February 22 of this year, the full court denied the State of Illinois’ petition to rehear the case. The case involves lead plaintiff Mary Shepard, an Illinois resident and a trained gun owner, who is licensed to carry a concealed handgun in both Utah and Florida, but was denied that right in Illinois and brutally beaten in an attack in her workplace.
Just a week before the NRA victory in Shepard v. Madigan, the San Francisco-based Ninth Circuit heard arguments against the abuse of California’s permitting structure by local authorities. The NRA-backed case of Peruta v. County of San Diego targets San Diego County, and Richards v. Prieto (a non-NRA case) challenges the practices of Yolo County. At issue in both cases is the California law that says a resident may only receive a carry license if he or she shows “good cause.”
Also heard before the Ninth Circuit were arguments in Baker v. Kealoha, which challenges Hawaii’s near-complete ban on the issuance of concealed carry permits. Hawaii’s statute says that concealed carry permits shall be issued only “in an exceptional case” or “where urgency or need has been sufficiently indicated,” and gives police chiefs arbitrary power to decide whose case is “exceptional.” (In practice, no permits are ever issued, a fact that the government’s attorney carefully dodged during the argument.)
With these cases pending, the coming weeks and months will surely bring significant rulings that affect every American’s right to self-defense outside the home.