In his commentary, “Don’t abolish the handgun permit review board" (Jan. 8), Daniel F. C. Crowley attacks Maryland’s conceal carry laws and fails to acknowledge that while the bills vetoed by Gov. Larry Hogan (SB1000/HB1343) would abolish the Handgun Permit Review Board, they also create a new mechanism for citizens to appeal directly to the impartial Office of Administrative Hearings. Under this process, qualified judges would review the appellant’s case and make decisions based on Maryland’s law, not personal feelings about existing laws.
The handgun board is a five-person panel of citizens appointed by the governor to hear appeals of wear and carry firearm permits of individuals denied a permit by the Maryland State Police. This is the only instance where a citizen body has the authority to overrule a decision by a departmental secretary, and it has proven to be a way to circumvent and undermine Maryland’s important firearms safety laws and the state police. The board was created before the Office of Administrative Hearings was established, making it unnecessary. In fact, administrative law judges hear citizen appeals of decisions by most state agencies covering a wide variety of topics, including firearm-related cases at multiple locations throughout the state, while the handgun board meets weekly at one location in Baltimore.
Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence has been monitoring board hearings since Governor Hogan took office and stacked the board with pro-gun advocates. In 2018, the board only upheld decisions made by Maryland State Police 14% of the time (16 of these cases were “failures to appear,” equating to an adjusted sustain rate of 9%). This means that the board ruled against police decisions 86% of the time, severely undermining Maryland State Police’s authority to determine who has a good and substantial reason to obtain a permit and who poses a risk to public safety. This does not support Mr. Crowley’s professed statement that he supports the Maryland State Police.
Governor Hogan’s veto of a neutral review process for concealed carry permit appeals has squarely aligned him with the corporate gun lobby and gun extremists who want to make Maryland an open carry state like Virginia where armed militias are planning rallies at the state capital later this month. Mr. Crowley, himself a Hogan appointee, believes that Maryland’s firearm laws, including the one he is responsible for upholding, should be repealed. He has also used his position to openly declare Maryland’s laws “tyrannical” during meetings of the board.
Finally, it is important for everyone to remember, in the absence of a non-partisan, neutral hearing body such as Office of Administrative Hearings, Maryland’s next governor will have the freedom to appoint new members of the handgun board and could appoint individuals who deny all permit appeals. Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence urges the Maryland General Assembly to override Governor Hogan’s veto and put concealed carry permit appeals where they belong — with the experienced administrative law judges at the Office of Administrative Hearings.
Elizabeth Banach, Baltimore
The writer is executive director of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence.