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Gun owner wants wear-and-carry ruling to stand

A Baltimore County gun owner, whose federal lawsuit led a judge this month to declare a portion of Maryland's gun laws unconstitutional, has filed a court motion to protect the ruling, which would make it easier for state residents to carry firearms.

Attorneys for Raymond Woollard filed the 29-page document in Baltimore's U.S. District Court at the close of business Friday in response to a filing last week by the Maryland attorney general's office, which sought clarification and a delay of the judge's order so the agency could have time to appeal.

But any such stay of the order would cause "irreparable harm" for Woollard and his co-plaintiff, gun-rights advocate The Second Amendment Foundation, by continuing to deprive them of their constitutional liberties, the lawyers wrote, adding that "the decision is unlikely to be overturned."

They agreed that clarification of the order was appropriate "if only to dispense with needless appellate issues."

In an opinion filed March 5, U.S. District Judge Benson E. Legg found that a Maryland rule requiring applicants for carry-permits to prove that they have a "good and substantial reason" to transport a firearm violated the Second Amendment, which extends outside the home, and was not enforceable.

Gun opponents decried the ruling, claiming it jeopardized public safety and would lead to an increase in the number of shootings on Maryland's urban streets, while gun enthusiasts said it would lessen crime by deterring criminals and allowing residents to defend themselves if attacked.

The Maryland attorney general's office quickly vowed to appeal the decision, claiming its contrary nature makes it unlikely to stand.

"Every court to have addressed the constitutionality of similar handgun wear and carry permit statutes before this one has upheld the constitutionality of the statutes," the state's lawyers wrote. "That, at a minimum, raises a substantial prospect of success for the defendants on the merits on appeal."

But Woollard's attorneys, Alan Gura and Cary J. Hansel, claim the ruling brings Maryland in line with most of the country, which allows the carrying of firearms after basic safety criteria are met.

"That is hardly a radical threat to public safety," they wrote, noting that Maryland may continue to regulate the carrying of handguns, just without that particular provision. "If the state is contemplating additional or different regulations, it does not suddenly require this court's permission to enact these in the first instance. The plaintiffs never asked, and the court never ordered, that the state be generally prevented from legislating on the subject of firearms."

The Maryland State Police, which oversees the permitting process, has said it will continue to follow the old rules until the courts make it clear what action they should take.

tricia.bishop@baltsun.com

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