US Supreme Court Orders Response from MD Attorney General Brian Frosh in "Assault Weapon" Ban Challenge
On January 14, the Supreme Court ordered the Maryland Attorney General to file a response to the petition for certiorari filed by plaintiffs in Bianchi v. Frosh, No. 21-901. In that case, plaintiffs are challenging Maryland's "assault weapon" ban as unconstitutional.
That order means, at the minimum, that at least one Justice on the Court wants a response. It also likely means that the Court will hold this petition pending a decision in NYSRPA v. Bruen, No. 20-843, in which the Supreme Court is considering the constitutionality of New York's "good cause" requirement for carry permits. Holding Bianchi would be consistent with the hold that the Court has apparently placed on the petition filed in the New Jersey "large-capacity magazine" case, ANJRPC v. Bruck, No. 20-1507. The petition in that case has been pending in the Supreme Court since April of 2021. All of this is good news. A decision in Bruen this Spring may mean that the Court will thereafter vacate the lower court decisions in both Bianchi and ANJRPC and remand for further consideration in light of Bruen. At least, we hope that is the outcome.
The Dangers of Maryland's Carry Laws
On August 12, 2021, Maryland's highest court, the Court of Appeals, ruled that a violation of Md. Criminal Law § 4-203(a)(1)(i) is a strict liability crime. Put simply, if one has a handgun on or about them and is not authorized to do so, they are guilty of violating the law. The case is Lawrence v. State, 471 Md. 101 (2021).
Section 4-203 is the statute that broadly prohibits the wear, carry, or transport of handguns within the State. Specifically, § 4-203(a)(1)(i) states:
(a) (1) Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section, a person may not:
(i) wear, carry, or transport a handgun, whether concealed or open, on or about the person;
There are a few exceptions to this ban (found in subsection (b) of Section 4-203), such as one having a Maryland Wear and Carry Permit, possession in the home or business (by the business owner), or when transporting an unloaded handgun (kept in an enclosed case or enclosed holster) between a gun shop and one's residence or from their residence to a gun range. But, outside these sharply limited exceptions set out in subsection (b), the passage above otherwise broadly criminalizes having a pistol on (or about) the person.
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