Plaintiffs have filed their response brief in Woollard v. Sheridan

Judge Benson Everett Legg

As you may recall, Woollard v. Sheridan is the Maryland case in which US District Court Judge Benson Everett Legg struck down Maryland’s discretionary may-issue handgun permitting scheme.

In that ruling, he held that “the right to bear arms is not limited to the home” and declared Maryland’s requirement that applicants articulate a “good and substantial reason” unconstitutional both in general and as-applied to Mr. Woollard.

As reported in this column, Judge Legg subsequently granted a temporary stay of his order pending a consideration of arguments for and against the issuance of a permanent stay.  The temporary stay laid out a timeline in which three briefs will be filed before he makes his final decision.  The first was an April 19th deadline for the state.

In this reporter’s opinion, the state’s arguments in their first brief were scattered, unsupported by facts, and in some cases outright misleading.  They claimed that they were only concerned about applicants who do have a “good and substantial reason”, that permit holders are dangerous, that shall-issue permits increase crime, that such a system would be difficult and expensive to maintain, and most astonishingly, that people should instead open carry rifles or shotguns for self-defense.

The deadline for the plaintiff’s response was yesterday and, as expected, attorneys Alan Gura and Cary Hansel absolutely shredded each of the state’s points.

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Plaintiff’s attorneys quickly latched onto the concession in footnote 1 of the state’s brief wherein the state concedes that the court has no discretion to grant a stay as-applied to the plaintiff.  They note that this case involves “the widespread denial of a fundamental constitutional right” and that since the state has “never claimed that Woollard is differently-situated than anyone else, or that they erred in applying the [“good and substantial reason”] requirement against him … [i]f the Court lacks discretion to stay the injunction in Woollard’s favor, it lacks discretion to stay the injunction in the public’s favor.”

As for Maryland’s claim that administering a shall-issue permitting system would impose significant costs and burdens upon the state, plaintiffs’ attorneys noted that “the costs of obeying the constitution are irrelevant” especially where what is at stake is “the continued deprivation of a fundamental right.”  They also noted that Maryland is part of an extremely small minority of states which do not administer their permit systems as shall-issue and that none of the existing shall-issue states appear to have the administrative problems which Maryland is predicting.

Moving on to the claim that states with shall-issue permits have increased crime or that permit holders themselves are dangerous, plaintiffs’ attorneys compared Maryland’s crime rates with those of surrounding states with shall-issue permitting schemes.

Citing FBI Uniform Crime Reports statistics, they demonstrate that Maryland, with its discriminatory rationing system, is far more dangerous than  Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, North Carolina, and South Carolina, where firearm murder rates are concerned.

They also provided the following data comparing crime statistics per 100,000 residents in may-issue and no-issue states as a bloc vs the national average.

May/No Issue States

National Average

Firearm Murders

4.41

2.84

Firearm Robberies

56.62

42.00

Firearm Assaults

32.62

45.00

They put the finishing touches on this argument by citing to McDonald v. Chicago wherein the court stated that analyzing Second Amendment cases does not “require judges to assess the costs and benefits of firearms restrictions and thus to make difficult empirical judgments in an area in which they lack expertise.”  In short, the battle of competing studies which Maryland introduced in their first brief are not of the nature that is useful or appropriate in making such a decision.

They end their brief by quoting from the 2012 case of Bateman v. Perdue.  As a Second Amendment advocate, I find this quote both heart-warming and indicative of a sea-change in how the courts are treating Second Amendment cases.

“[T]he Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms ‘is not strictly limited to the home environment but extends in some form to wherever those activities or needs occur’. . . . Although considerable uncertainty exists regarding the scope of the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, it undoubtedly is not limited to the confines of the home.”

There is much more in the opinion and I would encourage everyone to read it all when you have the time.  We are one more step closer to what is looking more and more like a decision to lift the stay and bring Maryland kicking and screaming back into the fraternity of states which give the proper legislative and judicial weight to the Second Amendment.

UPDATE:  The state has filed their final brief

© 2012, John Pierce. All rights reserved.


About John Pierce

Monachus Lex is written by Virginia attorney John Pierce. John is a life-long gun rights advocate, an NRA certified instructor and co-founder of the nationwide gun rights group OpenCarry.org.

He has an undergraduate degree in Computer Information Systems, an MBA from George Mason University and is a 2012 Honors Graduate of Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul, MN.

Professionally, John is a member of the American Bar Association Second Amendment Civil Rights Litigation Subcommittee and his writings have been published by the ABA Civil Rights Litigation Committee and the ABA Minority Trial Lawyer Committee.

In addition, his open carry advocacy has been featured on Nightline and The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.
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7 Responses to Plaintiffs have filed their response brief in Woollard v. Sheridan

  1. Pingback: Maryland files first brief in support of permanent stay in Woollard v. Sheridan case | Monachus Lex

  2. TFred says:

    John, with regard to the claim that “permit holders themselves are dangerous”, did the plaintiffs’ brief provide any statistical evidence to rebut this in particular? (Obviously, I have not yet taken time to read the brief.)

    I have heard, but I do know know the source (perhaps a Florida study?) that as a whole, Concealed Carry permit-holders commit fewer crimes than Law Enforcement Officers.

    I would LOVE to have a reputable source to cite for this.

    • Tim Bowyer says:

      TFred,
      For a couple of reliable cites, see page 11 of Gun Facts, http://gunfacts.info/

      Bureau of Justice Statistics, Texas Department of Public Safety and the U.S. Census Bureau, and Nina Butts, Texans Against Gun Violence, Dallas Morning News, August 10, 2000

      The whole publication uses many unbiased cites to rebut gun control myths. Good book, and it’s offered for no cost.

      Tim

    • John Pierce says:

      TFred,

      Tim is right. Gunfacts is one of the most comprehensive collection of supporting data. I have used it many, many times.

      John

  3. Grapeshot says:

    Alan Gura and Cary Hansel leave the opposition without one piece of terra firma on which to stand. Predict that Maryland will be thrust into the the 21st century, kicking and screaming all the way.

    The only question I have at this point is will Maryland appeal the decision against them that they must be anticipating – will this go to the Supreme Court?

    • John Pierce says:

      Grapeshot,

      The stay is pending appeal so I do expect this to go to the 4th Circuit at a minimum. But this would be a great case to go to the Supreme Court (assuming of course that nothing happens to one of the 5 pro-gun members of the Supreme Court).

      John

  4. John Caile says:

    I am heartened to FINALLY hear a judge declare that the right of self-defense is not limited to “the home” – I’ve cringed when even a strong Constitutionalist like Scalia seems to differentiate between defense in the home and anywhere else. In our highly mobile culture, crime statistics clearly show that one is far more likely to be threatened OUTSIDE the home.

    The final battle, of course, will be Illinois…

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