In Baltimore, where gun violence is a persistent concern, police say they're not worried about the change.

"Overwhelmingly, the violence in Baltimore is associated with ... guns sold illegally on the streets" as part of the drug trade, said Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. "Our focus has been on illegal guns, people who don't have gun permits. ... That's what our war has been against."

But gun opponents such as Vice question why the state should risk the instances in which permit holders have committed gun crimes. Nationally, more than 400 people have been killed by holders of concealed carry licenses in the past few years, he said.

The other side, meanwhile, raises questions about the risks to permit holders from street criminals.

"Judge Legg's order will remove the loophole in Maryland law that the state has used to deny Maryland citizens the means to exercise the same natural right of self-defense enjoyed by citizens in most of the states," John H. Josselyn, legislative vice president for the Associated Gun Clubs of Baltimore, said in a statement.

Arguments in the federal appeals case could be heard this year.

tricia.bishop@baltsun.com

twitter.com/triciabishop

SOURCE: Government Accountability Office, July 2012 report

Concealed carry permits by the numbers

118 million: Number of handguns owned by U.S. citizens or legally for sale in 2010

8 million: Number of active concealed-carry permits in the U.S. as of Dec. 31

49: Number of states that allow people to carry concealed handguns as of March (Illinois does not, nor does the District of Columbia)

40: Number of "shall issue" gun carry permit states, including Maryland, in which authorities are required to issue permits to applicants who meet objective statutory criteria

9: Number of "may issue" states, which leave permit issuance up to the discretion of local authorities

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