After exhausting his appeal options, Woollard filed a lawsuit against Col. Terrence B. Sheridan, then superintendent of the Maryland State Police, and three members of the Maryland Handgun Permit Review Board in 2010, claiming the requirement was unconstitutional.
Legg decided the case by asking two basic questions: whether the Second Amendment protections extend beyond the home, and, if so, whether the "good and substantial" reasoning requirement "passes constitutional muster."
His thinking was guided by two landmark rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court that helped define the constitutional stance on gun ownership. A 2008 decision, overturning a decades-old ban on gun possession in the District of Columbia, found that citizens are entitled "to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation," not just in militia circumstances. And a 2010 decision that followed it extended the right to all states — including Maryland — under the "equal protection clause" of the 14th Amendment.
Because the right to bear arms is understood to allow for hunting and militia training, it can't stop at one's front door, Legg held. He further found that Maryland's "good and substantial reason" requirement had no purpose other than to limit the number of guns on the street.
"Those who drafted and ratified the Second Amendment surely knew that the right they were enshrining carried a risk of misuse, and states have considerable latitude to channel the exercise of the right in ways that will minimize that risk," Legg wrote. "States may not, however, seek to reduce the danger by means of widespread curtailment of the right itself."
Woollard could not be reached for comment Monday, but his attorneys, Cary Hansel and Alan Gura, called the court decision a "sweeping victory" that "brings Maryland's extremist approach much more in line with the common sense regulation seen in the rest of the country."
There are now 12,000 active carry permits in Maryland, according to a state police spokesman.
That number is expected to rise exponentially if the judge's opinion stands. Paul Dembowski, legislative director for Maryland Shall Issue, based in Annapolis, said a 10-fold increase would be reasonable, and Smiegel claims "tens of thousands of people" have been waiting for access to the permits."
But prosecutors see the ruling as a setback for the state.
"We disagree with this ruling," Assistant Attorney General Matthew Fader said in an emailed statement. "In light of the very important implications of the ruling for public safety, the defendants will be appealing to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals."
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