Right to carry victory in Maryland: Woollard v. Sheridan

Earlier today, Maryland federal district Benson Everett Legg decided the case of Woollard v. Sheridan. Plaintiffs on the case  are Robert Woollard and the Second Amendment Foundation. The lead attorney for plaintiffs is Alan Gura, the winning attorney in D.C. v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago.

As explained in the district court’s Dec. 2010 ruling, rejecting a motion to dismiss:

Plaintiff Woollard initially obtained a handgun carry permit after he was assaulted by an intruder in his home in 2002. The permit was renewed in 2005. At that time, the intruder had recently been released from prison, providing a “good and substantial reason” for Woollard to carry a firearm. In 2009, Woollard again sought to renew his permit so that he could carry a handgun for self defense. MSP Secretary Sheridan denied Woollard’s application, however, because Woollard failed to provide sufficient evidence “to support apprehended fear.”

At issue in the case is the Maryland statute which says that the Secretary of the State Police can issue a carry permit if  the applicant “has good and substantial reason to wear, carry, or transport a handgun, such as a finding that the permit is necessary as a reasonable precaution against apprehended danger.” Md.Code Ann., Pub. Safety § 5-306(a)(5)(ii).

In today’s decision on the merits, the “good and substantial reason” requirement was ruled to violate the Second Amendment. The court held that the Second Amendment right is not limited to self-defense in the home. It also includes the militia and hunting. None of the Second Amendment rights can logically be confined solely to the home: “In addition to self-defense, the right was also understood to allow for militia membership and hunting. To secure these rights, the Second Amendment‘s protections must extend beyond the home: neither hunting nor militia training is a household activity, and ‘self-defense has to take place wherever [a] person happens to be’.”

The internal quotation, by the way, is from Eugene Volokh, Implementing the Right to Keep and Bear Arms for Self-Defense: An Analytical Framework and a Research Agenda, 56 UCLA L. Rev. 1443 (2009). Based on judicial citations, the Volokh article appears to be by far the most influential post-Heller  article on the Second Amendment.

The Maryland carry license law was not “narrowly tailored,” says the Woollard opinion. Moreover, “A citizen may not be required to offer a ‘good and substantial reason’ why he should be permitted to exercise his rights.” Rather, “The right’s existence is all the reason he needs.”

The case is headed to the Fourth Circuit, which has a mixed record on Second Amendment issues. From there, Woollard could be the case in which the Supreme Court chooses to tell recalcitrant lower federal courts that Heller and McDonald really do mean what they say: that the Second Amendment includes the right to carry, albeit not in “sensitive places,” and the government may, if it wishes, require that carry be open rather than concealed.

The SAF press release is here, and a terse AP story is here. Congratulations to Alan Gura and to SAF President Alan Gottlieb!