Major gun-rights groups are jumping into court to challenge Maryland’s latest gun-control law.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) and Maryland State Rifle and Pistol Association filed Kipke v. Moore against the state’s new law increasing concealed carry permitting fees and vastly expanding “gun-free zones” on Tuesday. The Second Amendment Foundation, Firearms Policy Coalition, and Maryland Shall Issue filed Novotny v. Moore the same day. Maryland lawmakers, who passed the new restrictions as a response to the Supreme Court striking down their previous restrictive permitting law in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, argued the law will make the state safer.
Governor Wes Moore (D.) said the bill “strengthened common sense gun laws” during his signing ceremony. Lieutenant Governor Aruna Miller (D.) argued the new restrictions “will keep Marylanders, particularly children, safe from gun violence.”
The gun-rights groups argued the law is an unconstitutional response to the Breun ruling. Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, said the law leaves Marylanders with fewer options to carry a gun in self-defense than before the Court recognized carrying is protected by the Second Amendment.
“Instead of trying to comply with the new guidelines set down in that decision, Maryland lawmakers scrambled to make gun laws more restrictive than they were before,” he said in a statement. “Indeed, the additional restrictions make it nearly impossible to legally carry firearms for personal protection, even on public land. This is government regulation at its worst.”
The new law and legal brouhaha it has spawned come in the wake of similar Bruen-response bills in New York and New Jersey. Those restrictions, which almost entirely eliminate the ability of residents who have obtained permits to actually carry a gun for self-defense, have faired poorly in court thus far. Multiple federal judges have ruled they are unconstitutional, and at least two Supreme Court justices have indicated they likely agree. A federal judge ruled on Tuesday most of the new “gun-free zones” New Jersey created in response to Bruen violate the Second Amendment under the standard the Supreme Court set in that case.
Maryland’s new restrictions also represent further momentum for gun-control activists in the states where Democrats gained control of all levers of government following the 2022 midterm elections. Democrats have enacted new gun laws in Michigan, Minnesota, and Maryland after beating poor Republican candidates, such as Trump-backed Maryland gubernatorial candidate Dan Cox who garnered just 32 percent of the vote in a state whose popular Republican governor had just retired after finishing his second term.
Now, gun-rights activists are stuck fighting in court to push back on the sweeping changes enacted by Moore. House Bill 824 increases some of the fees associated with applying for “wear and carry permits” by two-thirds and expands the list of minor infractions that can result in an applicant being denied. Senate Bill 858 institutes new gun storage requirements. Senate Bill 1 adds a wide variety of new “gun-free zones” that are off-limits to anyone other than police or other authorized groups carrying a gun, even if they have a permit.
The new restricted areas include state parks, rest stops, transit facilities, state buildings, stadiums, racetracks, many casinos, museums, health care facilities, and amusement parks. Permittees will no longer be able to carry anywhere that serves alcohol or weed, even if they don’t drink or smoke. The law also bars anyone from carrying within 1,000 feet of a public demonstration, including inside their car. And it outlaws carrying a gun on any publicly-accessible private property, such as a store, unless the owner expressly says it is allowed–a reversal of how gun carry has been regulated in every state up to this point.
The NRA argued that the new restrictions are the exact opposite of what the state should be doing.
“Here are some sad facts: the mere mention of the word Baltimore invokes an immediate vision of a violent, unsafe city. That’s because of the woeful lack of prosecution of violent criminals in the state. It is vital for law-abiding Marylanders to have an effective means of defending themselves and their loved ones,” Randy Kozuch, the new executive director of the group’s Institute For Legislative Action, said in a statement. “Our laws should burden criminals and aid good, lawful people. It is evident that those in power in Maryland care more for criminals and less for the law-abiding.”
Adam Kraut, who runs legal operations for the Second Amendment Foundation, argued the lawsuits were inevitable once the bill passed.
“There is no well-established, representative historical analogue for the carry prohibitions included in SB1, which appears to be in direct conflict with the Supreme Court’s directive set forth in Bruen,” he said in a statement. “These restrictions are facially unconstitutional under the Second Amendment, forcing us to take this action in court.”
Other members of the legal team greeted the law with a bit more flare. The Firearms Policy Coalition posted a message to supporters warning, “Maryland lawmakers, once again, are attempting to unilaterally disarm peaceable people” and announcing their suit with a clip of famed boxing announcer Michael Buffer belting out, “Let’s get ready to rumble!”
The law is set to take effect in October.