Whalen v Handgun Permit Review Board Argued Before the Maryland Court of Special Appeals
In this case, the appellant, Holmes Whalen, was denied a carry permit by the Maryland State Police and that denial was sustained by the Handgun Permit Review Board. Mr. Whalen challenged that denial in circuit court, contending Maryland's "good and substantial reason" requirement for a carry permit was unconstitutional and that prior Maryland precedent have been superseded by subsequent Supreme Court holdings.
The circuit court nonetheless sustained the good and substantial reason requirement and Mr. Whalen appealed to the the Court of Special Appeals, Maryland's intermediate appellate court. The appeal was fully briefed over the summer and was orally argued before a three-judge panel of the court on November 4. Mr. Whalen was represented on this appeal by the President of Maryland Shall Issue.
It is, of course, difficult to predict the outcome of any case from oral argument. At oral argument, the State AG's Office did concede (properly) that while Supreme Court decisions are binding, the Maryland state courts are not bound by lower federal court decisions, including the Fourth Circuit's decision in Woollard, where the court sustained the good and substantial reason requirement. The issue is thus presented for the first time in the Maryland courts since the Supreme Court decided Heller in 2008 and applied that ruling to the States in McDonald in 2010. In our view, Mr. Whalen has the much better argument on the law on this issue, especially given the D.C. Circuit's recent decision in Wrenn and in the Ninth Circuit panel's decision in Young. There is a chance that the court will await guidance from the Supreme Court in the pending NYSRPA case (which will be argued on December 2). Should Mr. Whalen lose in the Court of Special Appeals, then he could file a petition for certiorari to Maryland's highest court, the Court of Appeals. From there, any appeal would go to the Supreme Court of the United States. Stay tuned.