The Maryland Senate has refused to confirm Gov. Larry Hogan’s appointment of three members to a board that reviews decisions by state police on permits to carry concealed handguns, with several senators citing the board’s rate of granting appeals.
Twenty-five senators voted Friday to reject the nominees to the Handgun Permit Review Board, while 21 voted to approve them.
By law, permits should only be granted to individuals who prove they have a “good and substantial” reason to wear and carry a handgun.
From December 2017 through November 2018, the board heard 269 appeals. It reversed or modified the decisions of the Maryland State Police 222 times, according to data provided by the board.
Sen. Delores Kelly, a Baltimore County Democrat, said the board’s rate of overturning state police decisions is “statistically unbelievable.”
Sen. Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat, said he believes the handgun board members are not as impartial as they should be.
“The philosophy is driving the decisions. The facts and the law are not,” Ferguson said.
Bills have been filed in the General Assembly to dissolve the five-member board and have state administrative judges hear appeals instead.
Defenders have said that the board’s decisions were often to modify restrictions that state police had placed on handgun permits, rather than overturning permit denials.
Sen. J.B. Jennings, the Senate minority leader, said senators shouldn’t punish nominees Bryan Fischer and John Michel of Baltimore County and Carol Loveless of Howard County just because they don’t think the board should exist.
“We are so focused on this board that we’re going to take it out on these individuals,” said Jennings, a Republican who represents Baltimore and Harford counties.
“We have three individuals that are qualified to be on this board and now we’re going to reject them?” said Sen. Kathy Klausmeier, a Baltimore County Democrat. “This, to me, is not right.”
The General Assembly’s chief lawyer said that the nominated members can still serve until the end of the General Assembly session or until Hogan appoints new members.
Shareese Churchill, a spokeswoman for Hogan, said the Republican governor’s staff is researching the implications for the board in light of the failed nominations.
“It seems that politics unfortunately came into play here,” Churchill said in a statement. “If the legislature wants to make changes to a statutory entity, they can pass legislation — they shouldn’t try to weaponize the confirmation process as an alternative to doing their jobs."
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller spoke last before the vote was called. He said the board members deserved to be confirmed.
“I don’t like their decision-making,” Miller said. But, he said, the way to address concerns about the board is to abolish it, which he supports.
This isn’t the first time the Senate has rejected one of Hogan’s nominees to the board. In 2016, Richard Jurgena fell one vote shy of confirmation after he questioned the constitutionality of Maryland’s law requiring a “good and substantial reason” to carry a gun.