Legal Challenges Arise for Maryland Firearm Restrictions


Annapolis, MARYLAND — A newly enacted Maryland law aimed at regulating the carrying of firearms in specific locations faces legal uncertainty. A federal judge issued an injunction on Friday, halting a portion of the law, arguing that restrictions on carrying guns in places where alcohol is served, at public gatherings, and on private property without owner consent, constitute an overreach.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the state's gun owners, prompted the judge's ruling. In the decision, the judge indicated a belief that the plaintiffs might successfully contest the constitutionality of certain aspects of the law. However, they have not yet demonstrated their case regarding bans in museums, government buildings, and healthcare facilities.

Background and Legal Challenge

During the 2023 legislative session, Maryland lawmakers responded to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling from the previous year, which eliminated the requirement to demonstrate a specific need for a concealed carry license in public. However, this response is now facing a federal court challenge from gun rights groups.

Meanwhile, the state's statute of limitations for civil lawsuits related to child sexual abuse is on the verge of expiration. This development opens the door for victims to seek legal recourse even decades after the alleged incidents.

Restrictions on Concealed Carry Areas

Although Maryland lawmakers removed the "good and substantial reason" clause from the law, deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, the state is tightening restrictions on carrying concealed handguns in specific areas. For instance, the law broadly prohibits carrying, wearing, or transporting a firearm in locations designated for children or vulnerable adults, such as schools or healthcare facilities. It also prohibits firearms in government or public infrastructure areas, as well as in "special purpose areas," which encompass places licensed for the sale of alcohol, cannabis, stadiums, museums, racetracks, or casinos. Gun rights advocates are contesting this law in federal court, but it is slated to take effect soon.

Changes in Gun Licensing

Another law alters and expands the requirements and procedures for issuing and renewing handgun permits. This statute, currently facing a federal court challenge alongside the concealed carry law, raises the minimum age for obtaining a handgun permit from 18 to 21. It also bars permits for individuals on supervised probation for a crime punishable by one year or more in prison, those convicted of impaired driving, and violators of protective orders. Individuals with a history of violent behavior due to mental illness or who have been involuntarily admitted to a mental health facility for over 30 days will also be prohibited from carrying firearms.

Jaelynn's Law and Child Sex Abuse Lawsuits

Maryland is implementing stricter firearm storage regulations, known as Jaelynn's Law, which prohibits storing a loaded firearm in a place accessible to an unsupervised minor. This law is named after Jaelynn Willey, a 16-year-old who was tragically killed in 2018 at Great Mills High School.

Furthermore, Maryland will abolish the state's statute of limitations for civil lawsuits related to child sexual abuse against institutions. Victims are anticipated to file lawsuits once this law becomes effective. Any legal challenges on grounds of constitutionality will be decided by the Supreme Court of Maryland.

Additional Legal Changes

Other legal amendments include granting Maryland's attorney general independent authority to bring charges against police officers following investigations into deaths involving officers. The state is also expanding civil remedies for victims of hate crimes. Hospitals will now be required to include fentanyl testing as part of drug screenings for diagnostic purposes. Finally, Maryland is repealing an exemption from prosecution for specific sexual offenses if, at the time of the alleged crime, the perpetrator was the victim's legal spouse.