The Maryland Senate approved a bill Monday night that would abolish the state’s Handgun Permit Review Board.
The 30-16 vote now moves the measure to the House of Delegates for consideration.
Some lawmakers and gun control advocates have raised concerns about the board, saying it has been too permissive in overturning and modifying Maryland State Police decisions on handgun permits.
Handgun owners who want to carry their guns with them must prove to the Maryland State Police that they have a “good and substantial” reason to carry the guns, under state law.
When owners are denied a permit or issued a permit with restrictions, they can appeal to the handgun board. The five-member board is appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate, although the Senate refused to confirm Gov. Larry Hogan’s latest appointees.
In recent years, the board has grown more permissive, routinely granting requests from gun owners to overturn permit denials or to remove the restrictions.
Of 269 cases the board reviewed from December 2017 through November 2018, the board reversed state police decisions 77 times and modified them 145 times. Combined, that’s a rate of overturning or modifying state police decisions 83 percent of the time.
The bill approved by the Senate will dissolve the handgun board and allow handgun owners to appeal directly to a state administrative judge instead.
Sen. Pamela Beidle, the bill’s sponsor, said the handgun board has a backlog of about 400 appeals. The state Office of Administrative Hearings has 40 judges in four locations who are trained in the handgun law, making for a more efficient process, he said.
“It’s a better way to do this,” said Beidle, an Anne Arundel County Democrat.
Sen. Justin Ready, a Carroll County Republican who voted against the bill, said the handgun board is a valuable form of oversight on the state police. Another Republican who voted against the bill, Sen. Johnny Ray Salling of Baltimore County, said the handgun board offers gun owners an important “second chance” when they’re denied a permit by the police.
Beidle’s bill has been supported by gun control advocates, including Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, and opposed by gun rights activists, such as Maryland Shall Issue.
The House of Delegates has not yet acted on its version of the bill, but the House voted last year to approve a bill to abolish the handgun board, making it likely to pass again this year.