Today we scored what may be the most important civil-rights victory since the Heller ruling in 2008. Woollard v. Sheridan was found for the plaintiffs, and
Maryland’s law requiring concealed-carry applicants to show “good and substantial reason” for their permit applications has been found unconstitutional.
Consitutional carry – no permit at all required, as in Vermont, Alaska, Wyoming, and Arizona – would of course be better. But the remarkable thing about this decision is the judge’s language in striking down the Maryland restrictions.
Key sentences: “The Court finds that the right to bear arms is not limited to the home” and “A citizen may not be required to offer a ‘good and substantial reason’ why he should be permitted to exercise his rights. The right’s existence is all the reason he needs.”
The standard the judge is setting up for the constitutionality of firearms laws comes very near the “strict scrutiny” standard associated with First Amendment law. While the judge did not use the phrase “strict scrutiny”, he cited among reasons to strike down the law that it is not sufficiently narrowly tailored to the state’s public safety interests – a classic strict-scrutiny argument.
The decision will be appealed to the Fourth Circuit appellate court, which has only a mixed record on Second-Amendment issues. But the plain and powerful language of the judge’s opinion will be difficult to overturn without outright ignoring the Supreme Court’s ruling in D.C. vs. Heller, setting the appellate court up for reversal.
This is a major victory for civil rights, argued by the same Alan Gura who won the D.C. vs. Heller case. With eleven mores states considering constitutional carry and a national right-to-carry reciprocity bill live in Congress, the legal climate around firearms rights is steadily improving.