Woollard Decision: Court Jumped the Gun in Concealed Carry Case?

By William Peacock, Esq. on March 22, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Thursday was not a great day for Alan Gura and the Second Amendment Foundation. The Fourth Circuit eviscerated a lower court opinion, refused to delineate the bounds of the Second Amendment, and approved a "may issue" concealed carry law in Maryland. The lower court had held that the right to bear arms extends outside of one's home and that a "good-and-substantial reason" requirement for concealed carry permits was an unconstitutional burden on that right.

Before we get to the case, however, can we all take a moment to appreciate the development of an entire body of law, right in front of our eyes? Maybe its just us, but how many chances will lawyers have to shape the entire jurisprudence of a Constitutional guarantee in their lifetimes?

Speech, press, religion, voting rights — they’ve all been developed through case law. We now deal with the minutiae, such as Wikileaks disclosures. Until Heller and McDonald, the Second Amendment was barely addressed. Now, rarely does a week goes by without a new development in this fascinating field of law.

Yet, we’re left with few clear answers. Circuit splits are happening over whether concealed carry is a right, whether that right extends to residents of other states, and what constitutes a reasonable restriction on that right. It’s all a bit exciting, isn’t it?

Enough romanticizing, however. Let’s get to the decision, shall we?

Maryland employs a “may issue” concealed carry scheme. It essentially requires that a person show “good-and-substantial reason” for needing to carry a firearm in public - concealed or open. Exceptions, of course, exist for sporting, transporting firearms to and from stores, etc., and certain individuals are basically guaranteed a permit (judges, prosecutors, public defenders, police officers, etc.).

Raymond Woollard was initially approved for a permit after his drug-addict son-in-law broke into his home on Christmas and tried to steal their car. An armed confrontation ensued and violence was averted when Woollard’s son subdued the intruder with a shotgun. Woollard got his permit, as well as one renewal, but was denied a second renewal when he was unable to show any indication of need beyond the now six-year-old break in.

We covered the lower court’s decision in depth when we previewed this case. The lower court went where the Fourth Circuit had earlier deferred, and declared that the right to bear arms extends past one’s front door. They also held that Maryland’s statute, while serving the important interest of public safety and keeping guns out of criminals’ hands, was not narrowly tailored enough to survive intermediate scrutiny.

“A citizen may not be required to offer a ‘good and substantial reason’ why he should be permitted to exercise his rights … [t]he right’s existence is all the reason he needs.”

The Fourth Circuit rejected that “trailblazing” statement and punted on recognition or rejection of a such a right. Instead they assumed, without deciding, that it existed.

They then mercilessly tore apart the lower court’s decision.

Come back for more on this decision.

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