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Gun board not reason for more guns on the street

In response to The Sun Editorial Board’s piece “In Annapolis, small but important steps on gun reform” (Mar. 26), I take issue with the characterization that the reason why there are so many dangerous weapons on the streets of Maryland is because the Handgun Permit Review Board is responsible for this.

Whether the board or the Office of Administrative Hearings is deciding these questions, the issue of illegal guns on the streets of Maryland will not be affected in the least. Individuals who are granted a permit have been investigated by the Maryland State Police and may not have any felonious crimes in their backgrounds, no accusations of domestic violence, may not be addicted to illegal drugs and are not habitual drunkards. Believe me, illegal gun owners are not applying for a wear and carry permit from the state police.

The problem is not the board, or its well qualified members. At each meeting of the board, there is an assistant attorney general from Attorney General Brian Frosh’s office present to make sure that the board conducts its business in compliance with Maryland’s rigorous gun laws.

What The Sun fails to mention in its diatribe is that this board is a civilian oversight board for the Maryland State Police’s licensing division, which is charged with the granting of or denial of wear and carry permits (again The Sun called these permits concealed carry. It should really understand the laws that it is writing about if it cares about credibility).

The board hears more than 80 percent of its cases due to vague and ambiguous restrictions placed on the permits by the state police. Due to the 2013 Firearms Safety Act that went into effect on October 1, 2013, if a permit holder is carrying their firearm outside of the vague restrictions arbitrarily imposed by the state police, they could face up to three years in jail. This is a criminalization of what was previously an administrative matter. The restrictions themselves are undefined. Even the state police cannot define what these restrictions mean. If the state police cannot define the vague and ambiguous terms in the restrictions, how are ordinary citizens able to do so?

The legislature should be more concerned about the language in the permit restrictions than a civilian oversight board. Once that issue is addressed, the number of appeals, whether to the board or to the Office of Administrative Hearings, will drop precipitously.

Edward N. Hershon, Annapolis

The writer is an attorney who represents clients before both the Handgun Permit Review Board and the Office of Administrative Hearings.

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