MGA2018 Legislative Update
Well, it is starting to get exciting in Annapolis. We are tracking legislation and updating it often on our website with links to the bills and our testimony. We do want to highlight here a few of these bills and encourage our members (and other supporters of the Second Amendment) to contact their legislators and come out and testify. MSI needs your support.
We were off to a good start with SB-27, a bill sponsored by Senator Hough. That bill allows an applicant for a carry permit to submit an application for a carry permit without first taking all the training. Upon receiving preliminary approval of the application from the State Police, the applicant then has 120 days to get the training required to obtain the permit. The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee scheduled early hearings on SB-27, issued a favorable report in a near-unanimous vote and the Bill has already passed the Senate and is now before the House of Delegates. Our testimony on the bill can be found here. This bill is identical to the one passed last year by the House of Delegates and we remain hopeful that SB-27 will be passed by the House and become law.
Next up was SB-99, a bill sponsored by Senator Norman. That bill would modify the "good and substantial reason" requirement for a carry permit to include "self protection or self defense." The bill received a hearing on January 17, 2018 (our written testimony can be found here). It has not been voted on in the Senate Judicial Proceedings. The same language is found in HB-647, introduced in the House with 27 sponsors. HB-398 would similarly repeal the requirement of a "good and substantial reason" entirely. These bills have not yet been scheduled for a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee.
SB-602 and HB-534 are the medical marijuana bills. Unusually, SB-602 was filed with bipartisan support (Senators Hough and Chairman Zirkin). These bills state that a person may not be denied the right to purchase, possess, or carry a firearm because they are authorized by state law to use medical marijuana. We are not sure the actual legal effect of these bills, given that marijuana use remains illegal under federal law, and illegal use under federal law both makes it illegal for a dealer to sell to such a person and further makes it illegal for such a person to even possess firearms. Indeed, the mere possession of a medical marijuana card is a federal disqualification for purchases from an FFL. See our article for a discussion of the legal framework.
There are other good bills as well. For example, HB-792 (sponsored by Del. Malone) and SB-472 (sponsored by Senator Hough), would extend the carry permit period from 2 years to 5 years and the renewal period from 3 years to 5 years. SB-472 is set for hearing on Feb. 13 before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. Also important is SB-497, a bill that would require the State Police to issue a handgun permit to a person who is otherwise qualified and who is a person eligible for relief under a protective order, or who is under the protection of an order for protection. SB 497 is also scheduled for a hearing in the Senate on Feb. 13. HB-758 would allow a person, with the written consent of the church or religious organization, to carry a firearm without a permit while on the property of a such an organization.
The bad bills have also been filed. One of the most pernicious is HB-466, which would ban the sale or transfer into Baltimore any handgun that lacked microstamping (a technology that is supposed to imprint on the casing the manufacturer, the caliber and the serial number of the handgun that fires it). Of course, no handgun is being sold in the United States incorporates this technology so the bill would effectively impose a complete ban on the sale of handguns in Baltimore, a result that is patently unconstitutional under the Second Amendment. For those interested, this bill seems to be modeled somewhat after a similar microstamping requirement imposed by California. That requirement, among others, is being challenged in court in Pena v. Lindley, No. 15-15449 (9th Cir.). That case was argued in March of 2017 before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals by Alan Gura. The argument can be watched on the Internet here. Alan Gura was excellent, as usual. At least in California, there are still non-microstamped handguns available for sale. In contrast, this bill does not permit any sale of any handgun without microstamping. The bill would also ban the sale of ammunition (including long gun ammunition) in Baltimore to any person under the age of 21. That ban is flatly irrational given that persons 18 and older may purchase long guns under both state and federal law.
Led by Senator Madaleno, legislators have filed their the "bump stock" bill, SB-707. That bill would prohibit a person from transporting a certain rapid-fire trigger activator into the State or manufacturing, possessing, selling, offering to sell, transferring, purchasing, or receiving a certain rapid-fire trigger activator. It defines "rapid fire trigger activator" as any device, part, or combination of devices or parts that is designed and functions to accelerate the rate of fire of a firearm beyond the standard rate of fire for firearms that are not so equipped, including a bump stock and trigger crank. This language could be construed by a zealous prosecutor to include a replacement competition trigger for an existing, perfectly legal rifle, as such a modification could conceivably "accelerate the rate of fire" by some small amount over the trigger that came with the gun. And does anyone actually know what is meant by "standard rate of fire?" Note that this is a possession offense and there is no grandfather clause, so the bill would apply to all prior purchases of such "devices" covered by the bill, regardless of when such purchases took place. Once again, these legislators seemingly want to create criminals out of law-abiding citizens, as if Maryland doesn't have enough real criminals already. No hearings are scheduled yet.
Finally, they are now after the Handgun Permit Review Board. SB-741, sponsored by Senator Madaleno (who is running for Governor) and its cross-filed twin, HB-819, would abolish the Board and would require any person who seeks to appeal a decision of the State Police on an application for a carry permit to file an appeal before the OFFICE OF ADMINISTRATIVE HEARINGS, a prolonged and expensive route of appeal before an administrative law judge, a process for which you really need to hire a lawyer. See http://oah.maryland.gov/ Apparently, Senator Madaleno cannot stand that the Board has actually had the temerity to reverse the State Police in a relatively small number of cases where the State Police have acted arbitrarily in denying or restricting a permit. Relegating appeals to such an administrative law judge would make appeals even more expensive and even more time consuming. Stay tuned!