Maryland business owners who have concealed carry permits for handguns will be able to have restrictions lifted so they can carry their guns at all times. In this file photo, handguns are on display at the 59th annual Bel Air Gun Show.
Maryland business owners who have concealed carry permits for handguns will be able to have restrictions lifted so they can carry their guns at all times. In this file photo, handguns are on display at the 59th annual Bel Air Gun Show.

Maryland business owners who have restrictions on their concealed carry permits for handguns will be able to have those limits lifted so they can carry their guns at all times, under a policy change state police announced Tuesday.

Many business owners who hold permits have been allowed to carry their handguns only when on the job or traveling to or from work. Now, they will be able to switch to unrestricted permits that will allow them to carry their handguns at any time.

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“It was a repeat issue of business owners, and the issue of when they were working and when they weren’t,” said Greg Shipley, a Maryland State Police spokesman. “An employee usually has set hours. … A business owner can be quite different, and the owner is always the owner.”

Col. William Pallozzi, state police superintendent, and the leaders of the agency’s licensing division “felt that issue needed to be clarified and removed,” Shipley said.

“It is a small victory for the rule of law,” said Mark Pennak, president of the gun-rights group Maryland Shall Issue.

Supporters of gun control were livid that Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration relaxed gun restrictions just days after more than 30 people were killed in mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

“The governor is weakening gun laws as the country is dealing with two major mass shootings, so the timing of this is questionable,” said Del. Lesley Lopez, a Montgomery County Democrat who chairs a work group that studies gun bills.

Hogan, a Republican, declined to comment, referring questions to state police. Mike Ricci, a Hogan spokesman, said the governor did not discuss the policy with Pallozzi.

Ricci said that if lawmakers want to prevent gun violence, they should support Hogan’s proposals on longer sentences for repeat violent offenders who use guns.

“A small group of law-abiding citizens who have already been approved and fully vetted for legal permits is not the problem,” Ricci said.

Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, a Howard County Democrat, also criticized the timing of the policy change.

“To make that decision in the wake of what just happened in El Paso and Dayton and everything that has preceded this is a slap in the face of every single Marylander,” said Atterbeary, who is vice chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee. “It is shameful in every sense that it could be shameful.”

Liz Banach, director of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, sees the policy change as a defeat in efforts to prevent the proliferation of guns and gun usage. Her group believes that the more often guns are owned and carried, the more likelihood there is for gun violence to occur.

“It’s just increasing the frequency and opportunity for bad things to happen,” Banach said.

Shipley could not estimate how many permit holders would be affected by the change.

Business owners who have a work-related restriction on their carry permit can apply to the state police to have the permit modified. State police are identifying and contacting those who have appealed a work-related permit restrictions to the Maryland Handgun Permit Review Board or a state administrative judge.

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In meetings a Baltimore Sun reporter attended this year, the vast majority of cases involved permit restrictions related to work — and many of them were brought by business owners.

The policy change does not apply to employees of a business who are granted a carry permit for when they are working.

The change will likely significantly reduce the workload of the handgun permit review board, which has come under scrutiny by state lawmakers who said it was too permissive in granting permits and dropping restrictions. While the board previously granted many applicants’ requests to lift restrictions on their permits, it more recently has rejected most such requests.

Business owners who want concealed carry permits for handguns still need to meet a legal standard of having “good and substantial” reason to carry a gun. They also must still undergo a background check, an interview, reference checks and proof that they own a business, according to state police.

State lawmakers passed a bill this year abolishing the handgun board, but Hogan vetoed it. That allowed the board to continue operating, likely until lawmakers override the veto in January.

Sen. Pamela Beidle, an Anne Arundel County Democrat who sponsored the law, said she thinks the policy change is reasonable. Beidle, who has owned an insurance agency, said she appreciates that many business owners have work obligations that carry into personal time. Plus, she said, business owners with gun permits have already been vetted.

“They’ve already had their background check and been through the licensing class and done everything they need to do,” Beidle said.

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