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News Opinion

Maryland's gun permit law has served the state well

Your front-page analysis of the recent federal court decision striking down Maryland's "right to carry" handgun law conveys the misimpression that the law is ill-conceived and too "restrictive" ("Gun ruling likely to be upheld, say legal experts," March 7). Nothing could be further from the truth.

The handgun permit law has served Marylanders well for 40 years, and has survived a number of earlier challenges in the Maryland courts. Even your article concedes that only 5 percent of last year's applicants were denied for lacking a "good and substantial reason" for wanting a permit.

I was privileged to serve nine years — during both the Glendening and Ehrlich years — on the Handgun Permit Review Board (two years as its chairman). The board met monthly to review appeals of citizens who were denied permits after their applications were investigated by a special unit of the Maryland State Police. We heard testimony from the applicants and their supporting witnesses; then the troopers were required to justify their decision to deny the permit.

The board did not concur in every denial, and the statute grants the citizen reviewers the power to overrule the superintendent of the state police — a power seldom found in state or federal law. However, in most cases our decision was unanimous, and in all cases without exception during my tenure, the bi-partisan board found the MSP investigation respectful and thorough, and the grounds for denial compelling, even when we disagreed.

Judge Benson Legg's opinion is well-reasoned; he is an excellent jurist. However, he is a Bush 41 appointee who is perhaps the most conservative judge on Maryland's federal bench. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals is one of the premier federal appellate benches, and citizens of Maryland should be pleased by Maryland state Attorney General Doug Gansler's decision to appeal. We await that ruling.

Your reporter surveyed a number of "legal experts" on the subject from as far away as Los Angeles, most of them of the pro-gun, Second Amendment persuasion. Yet she failed to consult experts right here in Baltimore, such as Steven Teret, Jon Vernick and Daniel Webster of the Center for Gun Policy and Research at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

For years they have carefully researched the many varieties of state gun laws, both from the standpoint of their constitutional merits and their efficacy in quelling gun violence.

Had your reporter talked to them, she might well have reached a different conclusion — or at least a more balanced view of the Maryland law's merits.

Michael A. Pretl, Riverto

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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