A set of gun holsters on sale at a Virginia gun store in January 2023
A set of gun holsters on sale at a Virginia gun store in January 2023 / Stephen Gutowski

Federal Judge Blocks Many of Maryland’s New ‘Gun-Free Zones’

Maryland can’t ban those with gun-carry permits from carrying in large swaths of the state.

That’s the ruling handed down by United States District Judge George L. Russell, a Barack Obama appointee, on Friday. He found many, though not all, of the state’s latest gun-carry restrictions likely violate the Second Amendment. He issued a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of those restrictions.

“Plaintiffs are correct that the public has a strong interest in upholding constitutional rights and the State is not harmed by an injunction preventing it from enforcing unconstitutional laws,” Judge Russell wrote in Kipke v. Moore. “Therefore, because Plaintiffs have shown a likelihood of success in their challenge to the private building consent rule and the regulations on public demonstrations and locations selling alcohol, the balance of the equities and the public interest tip in Plaintiffs’ favor as to those claims, and the Court will enjoin enforcement of those provisions.”

The ruling makes Maryland the latest state to run headlong into further constitutional issues as it attempts to respond to the Supreme Court finding its previous gun-carry restrictions were also illegal. In 2022’s New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, the High Court ruled permitting laws that gave too much subjective leeway to officials were unconstitutional and then went on to establish that modern gun laws only clear the Second Amendment if similar laws existed at the Founding.

Lawmakers in Maryland and several other states affected by the decision were outraged. They proceeded to craft similar Bruen-response laws that vastly expanded areas off-limits to even licensed gun carriers. Those laws often barred gun carry in parks, stadiums, restaurants, transportation hubs, at protests, or even in specific neighborhoods (such as New York City’s Times Square). They also flip the presumption for carrying on publicly accessible private property by making it a crime unless the owner posts a sign allowing it.

Federal judges in New York, New Jersey, and Hawaii have already found Bruen-response laws unconstitutional. Now Maryland joins that list.

“The deprivation of a constitutional right ‘unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury.’ Thus, in the context of an alleged constitutional violation, the likelihood of irreparable harm necessarily depends on the likelihood of success on the merits of the claim,” Judge Russell wrote. “Accordingly, because Plaintiffs have shown a likelihood of success on the merits as to their challenges of the firearm restrictions in private property, locations selling alcohol, and within 1,000 feet of public demonstrations, they have also established irreparable harm as to those claims only.”

Judge Russell decided not to block restrictions on carrying on school grounds, in government buildings, and at stadiums, racetracks, amusement parks, or casinos.

Still, gun-rights advocates celebrated his ruling. Maryland Shall Issue, the Second Amendment Foundation, and the Firearms Policy Coalition all served as plaintiffs in the case, which was combined with another challenge.

Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, called the ruling a warning to other states pursuing similar laws.

“Maryland is one of a handful of states that have adopted new statutes designed specifically to get around the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the 2022 Bruen case, by spreading a very wide blanket over areas where lawful concealed carry is prohibited,” he said in a statement. “This is a signal that sort of legislative waltzing is in trouble.”

Maryland Shall Issue put it more succinctly.

“It’s a big win!” the group tweeted. “Some of the most egregious restrictions are enjoined from enforcement.”

The rulings against Bruen-response laws in New York, New Jersey, and Hawaii have been appealed and most remain in effect as of today. Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown (D.) did not respond to a request for comment on whether he planned to appeal.

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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