This story was updated at 2:40 p.m. Nov. 18, 2022, to include more comments.
Maryland Shall Issue, a guns rights group in Annapolis, plans to sue Montgomery County for passing a bill that prohibits wear and carry permit holders from carrying firearms within 100 yards of multiple public places.
Mark Pennak, president of Maryland Shall Issue, said it should come “as no surprise” that the group will be challenging the new law, which is effective as soon as County Executive Marc Elrich (D) signs legislation the council passed in a 8-0 vote earlier this week.
The bill specifically delineates where firearms would be prohibited. According to the bill, the places of public assembly include: a park; place of worship; school; library; recreational facility; hospital; “community health center including any health care facility or community-based program licensed by the Maryland Department of Health;” “[a] long-term facility including any licensed nursing home, group home, or care home;” and a multipurpose exhibition facility, such as a fairgrounds or conference center; or childcare facility.
It also includes government buildings or government-owned property, polling places and other facilities.
Pennak said that his organization will file an amended complaint to another lawsuit Maryland Shall Issue has with the county, involving a law that bans ghost guns in the county. The latter is currently in Maryland District Court.
Pennak is confident Maryland Shall Issue will prevail in court, citing the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc., et al. v. Bruen.
Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, along with five other justices, determined that New York’s law requiring special proof for residents to carry a handgun outside the home for self-defense violated the U.S. Constitution.
“We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need,” Thomas wrote in the majority opinion. “That is not how the First Amendment works when it comes to unpopular speech or the free exercise of religion. It is not how the Sixth Amendment works when it comes to a defendant’s right to confront the witnesses against him. And it is not how the Second Amendment works when it comes to public carry for self-defense.”
Scott Peterson, a spokesman for the county speaking on behalf of the county attorney’s office, declined comment, citing potential pending litigation.
Elrich said Friday that he would sign the legislation despite the impending lawsuit, and believes using county resources and funds to fight the challenge in court is worth it.
“It will be interesting if the courts rule that we can’t protect public spaces, because we haven’t extended it over the whole county,” Elrich said. “And so I think it’s limited enough that we have the right to make sure our spaces are safe.”
“I don’t want people bringing guns to ball games, after school, bringing them into schools,” he added. “To the extent that we can eliminate those places where people run around with a gun, that’s good to me.”
But Pennak is optimistic that his organization will prevail in court, given the ruling in Bruen.
“They’re not going to get away with it, because the Supreme Court’s decision with Bruen makes sure there’s a right to carry with a [wear and carry] permit,” he said. “And this bill basically eviscerates that right.”
Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus said that broadly speaking, he is concerned about the level of guns seen in communities throughout the county.
When asked about the argument made by opponents of the bill, who say it won’t fix the issue of criminals using guns in public places, Jones said: “I often hear those arguments by law-abiding citizens, but the challenges are that sometimes law-abiding citizens make bad decisions, that then turn into being not lawful… And sometimes, emotions get the best of them.”
“And you’ve seen a wide array of more guns being on our streets now, you see cases where even people who have gun permits are unlawfully displaying those guns in a way that are threatening other citizens, and that’s a problem,” Jones added.
Representatives of the local chapter of Moms Demand Action, an organization committed to strengthening gun control laws nationwide, could not immediately be reached for comment.