MSI Challenges the Handgun Qualification License (HQL)

HQL photo

September 30th, 2016

Today, Maryland Shall Issue, Atlantic Guns of Rockville and Silver Spring, MD, and several individual citizens of Maryland filed suit in federal district court in Baltimore, challenging every aspect of the Handgun Qualification License (HQL) requirements imposed by the Firearm Safety Act of 2013, and the implementing regulations and practices imposed by the Maryland State Police in 2013.  A copy of the complaint, as filed in court, can be found HERE on the Maryland Shall Issue website.

Briefly summarized, the suit alleges that the Handgun Qualification License requirements, both as set forth in the statute, and as implemented by the Maryland State Police, violate the Second Amendment of the Constitution by placing unjustifiable and overwhelming burdens on the right of law-abiding citizens to purchase a handgun for the home. The suit further alleges that aspects of the statute and the regulations violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by, among other things, imposing such vague requirements that citizens are exposed to a profound risk of discriminatory and arbitrary arrest and prosecution. Finally, the suit directly attacks the regulations issued by the Maryland State Police on a variety of state law grounds. Those regulations and practices impose even more onerous requirements, not required by the statute, and are thus illegal under well-established principles of Maryland administrative law.

The HQL requirements, particularly as implemented by the State Police, were intended to create as many obstacles to the purchase of a handgun as possible and thus effectively ration the exercise of constitutional rights to the few who have the substantial time, money, specialized knowledge and sheer determination to navigate all these roadblocks to the exercise of a constitutional right. That result is wrong and simply cannot be meekly accepted without a fight. That fight is now on.

Our legal counsel in this suit is Cary J. Hansel, Hansel Law, PC, 2514 North Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21218. While the State of Maryland is sure to resist and it is always hazardous to predict litigation, we look forward to working with Cary to achieve a successful outcome in this case.

This is just the first step.  There is a still a long road ahead and we will need your continued help and support as this suit proceeds.

UPDATE as of 12/12/2023:  WE WON.  On November 21, 2023, the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued its opinion holding that the HQL requirement was unconstitutional under the Second Amendment.  You can find the opinion here. The State has filed a petition for rehearing and asked for the entire Court to rehear the case.  That petition has the effect of staying the court's "mandate" (which stays the effective date of the Court's opinion).  You can find that Petition here.  The Court has ordered a response from us, to be filed by December 18, 2023. The Court will then either grant or deny the petition.  If denied, the mandate of the Court will issue 7 days after that order. If rehearing is granted, the Court will probably order additional briefing and hold argument before the entire Court.  Stay tuned. 

UPDATE AS OF -1/12/2024:  The State's petition for rehearing was granted on January 11, 2024, over our opposition.  The order can be found here.  Oral argument before the entire Fourth Circuit is currently scheduled for March 21, 2024 in Richmond. 

Mark Pennak
President Maryland Shall Issue

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Case Documents and History
US District Court for the District of Maryland Case# Case 1:16-cv-03311-ELH*
*Case originally assigned to Judge Marvin J. Garbis (ret.)

9/30/16 - Complaint
12/2/16 - Defendants' Memorandum in Support of Motion to Dismiss
12/28/16 - Amended Complaint
1/20/17 - Defendants' Memorandum in Support of Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint
2/28/17 - Plaintiffs' Response in Opposition to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss
3/20/17 - Defendants' Reply in Support of Motion to Dismiss
8/7/17 - Hearing held on Motion to Dismiss before Judge Marvin J. Garbis
9/6/17 - MEMORANDUM AND ORDER granting in part and denying in part 18 Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint
7/26/18 - Case reassigned to Judge Ellen L. Hollander
8/17/18 - Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment
8/27/18 - Brief of Amicus Curiae by Everytown for Gun Safety in Support of Defendant's Motion to Dismiss
10/5/18 - Plaintiffs' Memorandum for Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment and Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment
10/5/18 - Brief of Amicus Curiae by Millennial Policy Center, et al. in Support of Plaintiffs' Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment
3/31/19 - ORDER granting Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment
4/25/19 - Plaintiffs' Notice of Appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

See the full docket HERE

US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit Case# 19-1469
8/3/20 - JUDGMENT of USCA affirming in part and reversing in part. Remanding to the District Court for further proceedings

Case returned to US District Court
9/8/20 - Mandate of Fourth Circuit takes effect
11/25/20 - Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment
1/27/21 - Plaintiffs' Cross MOTION for Summary Judgment and Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment
8/23/21 - Memorandum Opinion dismissing suit
9/10/21 - Notice of Appeal
9/16/21 - USCA Case Number 21-2017 for Notice of Appeal

US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit Case# 21-2017
9/16/21 - Case docketed
9/27/21 - Order Consolidating Cases 21-2017 and 21-2053
10/6/21 - Plaintiffs' (Appellants) Motion to Hold Appeal in Abeyance
10/6/21 - State's Response to Motion to Hold Appeal in Abeyance due 10/18/2021
10/14/21 - Appellees’ (State) Opposition to Motion to Hold Appeal in Abeyance
10/14/21 - Plaintiffs' Reply in Support of Motion to Hold Appeal in Abeyance
11/2/21 - Order Granting Plaintiffs' Motion to Hold Appeal in Abeyance
6/23/22 - 28(j) Letter to Court Re: NYSRPA v. Bruen
6/24/22 - Briefing Order (Scheduling Order)
7/30/22 - APPEARANCE OF COUNSEL by Mark W. Pennak
8/3/22 - Brief of Appellants
8/10/22 - Brief Of Amici Curiae Firearms Policy Coalition, FPC Action Foundation, and Independence Institute In Support of Appellants and Reversal
8/10/22 - Motion For Leave to File Brief of Amici Curiae (FPC, Indpencence Inst.)
8/11/22 - Court - Response Requested on Motion to File Amicus (due 8/22/22)
8/16/22 - Defendants' Unopposed Motion for an Extension if Time to File Opening/Response
8/16/22 - Order Granting Defendants' Motion for Extension of Time
8/22/22 - Defendants' Response/Answer on Motion to File Amicus
8/23/22 - Order Granting Motion to File Amicus
9/27/22 - Defendant's Motion to extend filing time for opening/response brief until October 17, 2022
9/27/22 - Order filed granting Motion to extend filing time. Number of days granted: 14. Opening/Response Brief Due: 10/17/2022. Response/Reply Brief Due 11/16/2022.
10/17/22 - Brief of Appellees (Defendants)
11/16/22 - Reply Brief of Appellants (Plaintiffs)
11/22/22 - Case tentatively calendered for oral argument during the 1/24/23 - 1/27/23 argument session.
12/16/22 - Case Continued From Tentative Calendar.
1/6/23 - Case tentatively calendared for oral argument during the March 7-10, 2023 argument session.
3/6/23 - ORDER filed substituting party Wes Moore for Lawrence Hogan.
3/10/23 - Oral argument to be held at 8:30am before Panel III in Courtroom 339 (Blue Courtroom)
11/21/23 - Decision of the Court of Appeals, holding that the HQL requirement was unconstitutional 
12/05/23 - State Petition for Rehearing En Banc

Find the full appellate docket at CourtListener.


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