Firearms Safety Act of 2013 requires that a person complete a 16 hour training course, taught by a State certified instructor, “prior to application” for a carry permit. MD Code, Public Safety, § 5-306(a)(5). Senate Bill 114 would amend Section 5-306 to delete the requirement that the training be completed “prior to application.” It then provides that a person may file an initial application for a wear and carry permit without completing the training and directs that the State Police to issue a preliminary approval if the person is otherwise qualified for the permit. The person then has 120 days after receipt of the preliminary approval to furnish the State Police the certificate of training otherwise required by the regulations. A permit does not issue until that training certificate is provided. If no certificate of training is provided, the State Police are directed to revoke the preliminary approval and deny the permit application.
This bill makes sense. Indeed, this same bill passed the House of Delegates in 2017 as HB 1036 and that bill was reported out this Committee with a favorable report. The bill only failed to become law because time ran out last year at sine die. Early consideration of this bill will help avoid that unfortunate result this year and we are grateful to the Chair in taking up the bill early in this Session.
To be clear, as was the case under HB 1036, the existing, very rigorous training requirements are not relaxed in the slightest under this bill and no permit is issued without a person satisfying those requirements. That training, however, is relatively hard to find and can be quite expensive, running from around $300 up to $600 for each person in a class. Many, if not most, instructors require a minimum
number of persons in a class, typically ten, and classes are not held until that minimum number of persons actually sign up for the class. For these reasons, a person will need at least 120 days to find the course and secure training. This bill allows a person to apply without undergoing that initial and substantial expense, which would be completely wasted if the State Police were to determine that the person is not otherwise qualified for the permit.
Both the District of Columbia and Delaware follow this approach. See D.C. Mun. Regs. Tit. 24, § 2336.4 (“An applicant may submit to the Chief the application required under § 2337 without including the certificate of completion of training required by this section; provided that if the Chief preliminarily approves the application pursuant to §2339, the applicant has forty-five (45) days to submit the certificate of completion and successfully complete the range training”); 2 DE Code § 1441(e) (allowing a permit to be issued on an approved application after submission of a certificate of completion of the required training, but not establishing any firm deadline for such submission).
There is no good reason why Maryland cannot give preliminary approval as contemplated by this bill. In 2017, the representative of the Maryland State Police testified that the State Police can accommodate this approach without a problem. See Video of Testimony by State Police on HB 162 before the House Judiciary Committee at 30:00 (Feb. 7, 2017), available at http://mgahouse.maryland.gov/mga/play/421c69fc-fd71-4351-bb1a- f78440aa18f4/?catalog/03e481c7-8a42-4438-a7da- 93ff74bdaa4c&playfrom=1499000 We urge a favorable report.