Oral arguments in Anne Arundel County gun safety literature law appeal tentatively set for December

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A federal appeals court has tentatively scheduled oral arguments in a case over an Anne Arundel County law requiring gun sellers to distribute pamphlets on safe gun storage and suicide prevention at the time of sale.

Between Dec. 5 and 8, arguments are set to take place in Richmond, Virginia, in front of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, according to a court order released Wednesday. Attorneys have until Wednesday to file motions that would affect the scheduling, the order states.


The legislation was sponsored by Anne Arundel County Council member Lisa Rodvien, an Annapolis Democrat, and unanimously approved by the County Council in January 2022. A few months later, gun rights nonprofit Maryland Shall Issue sued the county in federal court. The nonprofit is representing four local gun stores: Cindy’s Hot Shots in Glen Burnie, Pasadena Arms and Field Traders in Pasadena, and Worth-A-Shot in Millersville.

Mark Pennak, an attorney and the nonprofit’s president, attempted to persuade U.S. District Judge Stephanie Gallagher that the bill infringed on the First Amendment rights of gun owners by forcing them to become conduits for government messaging.


In March, Gallagher sided with Anne Arundel County, after being convinced by the arguments by the county’s Office of Law. Deputy County Attorney Hamilton Tyler explained all information in the pamphlets was unequivocally accurate and unbiased. Most of the text in the pamphlets was information on county resources and was compiled by the Anne Arundel County Health Department.

Since Maryland Shall Issue filed an appeal in April, the county’s case has received significant state and federal support from more than 20 parties who filed amicus briefs, including the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, Gun Owners for Safety, a gun safety group started by former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, and various medical societies.

Pennak has argued his clients have “a compelling Supreme Court precedent” from a ruling in the 2018 case National Institute of Family & Life Advocates v. Becerra. In that case, religiously affiliated pregnancy health centers challenged a California law requiring them to notify those they serve about local abortion options. The Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional.

The county’s gun literature law is “exactly the same situation,” Pennak said. “The Supreme Court said, ‘No you can’t make people do that. You can’t make them into conduits, commandeer their efforts just because you think it’s a good policy.’”

Gallagher found the case was different because a gun is a commercial product, not a service, and occasionally products that pose a potential danger have warning labels, such as toys that may be choking hazards.

The county hopes the arguments that persuaded Gallagher the law was constitutional will also persuade the Court of Appeals, Tyler said in a statement.