New Gun Lawsuit, New County Considerations

As Maryland fully considers the impact of the United States Supreme Court’s holding in New York State Rifle & Pistol Assn., Inc. v. Bruen, a new lawsuit, Bianchi v. Frosh, seeking to ease assault weapons restrictions is underway.

Bianchi v. Frosh had also been heard by the Supreme Court, which opted to send the suit back to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and have it decided per the principles outlined in Bruen. In their lawsuit, gun rights advocates suggest Maryland’s assault weapons restrictions violate Bruen’s historical test. As described in the Daily Record, under the Bruen test:

[R]estrictions on gun possession must comport not only with a state’s interest but with the Constitution’s text, history and tradition of firearms restrictions when the Second Amendment was adopted in 1791 or when the 14th Amendment extended the right to keep and bear arms to the states in 1868.

According to the advocates, Maryland’s laws are unconstitutional because “gun restrictions in the 18th and 19th centuries applied only to ‘dangerous and unusual weapons’ that are ‘not in common use,'” and the weapons banned in Maryland are in common use by law-abiding residents. Another pending lawsuit, Maryland Shall Issue Inc. v. Hogan, targeting Maryland’s licensing requirements for handgun purchasers, is based on a similar argument.

The Bruen case had already resulted in Governor Larry Hogan directing state police to suspend the “Good and Substantial Reason” requirement for individuals applying for “Wear and Carry” permits for firearms. Governor Hogan reasoned the requirement was no longer constitutional as the Supreme Court had struck down a similar provision in New York. As noted above, Bruen’s impact on Maryland’s laws is unprecedented and far-reaching.

On August 10, MACo’s Attorneys’ Affiliate, made up of representatives of the chief legal officer for each county, met to discuss the implications of Bruen and how to address guns in public spaces. Bruen significantly curtailed state and local governments’ ability to restrict firearms in public spaces, allowing for such restrictions in “sensitive spaces” only.

The Supreme Court held that “courts can use analogies to those historical regulations of ‘sensitive places’ to determine that modern regulations … in new and analogous sensitive places are constitutionally permissible.” It rejected New York’s argument that sensitive places are “all places where people typically congregate and where law-enforcement and other public-safety professionals are presumptively available.”

Under Bruen, the following are considered historically sensitive places:

  • Schools
  • Government Buildings
  • Legislative Assemblies
  • Polling Places
  • Courthouses
The Attorneys’ Affiliate will meet every other month to determine what gun laws and regulations our counties can enact to balance individuals’ constitutional rights and public safety. There will be much to consider between Bruen, Bianchi, and Maryland Shall Issue.

Read the full Daily Record article.