Woollard Decision: Means 'Reasonably' Justified by Safety Ends

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

Maryland has a need for public safety measures. There's a reason some people call it "Balti-murder" after all. Of course, the means chosen to achieve that public interest must survive intermediate scrutiny by having a fit that is "reasonable, not perfect."

Do the means fit the need? The state's justifications include:

  • Keeping lawful concealed carry guns off the street to prevent gun theft by criminals;
  • Ensuring that confrontations, such as road rage or bar fights, don’t result in death;
  • Less chance of confusing police officers (armed third parties, which side are they on?);
  • Curtailing the presence of guns in routine police-citizen encounters (more guns necessitates more police caution and less friendliness and trust);
  • Reducing the number of handgun-sighting investigations; and
  • Facilitating identification of handgun carriers who are threats.

Obviously, those points are subject to some debate. Do we deprive someone of a constitutional right because someone might steal their gun? Does the need for easier encounters between police and citizens, and reduced investigations of (sometimes lawful) public gun possession justify reduced rights?

However, in concert with the Second Circuit’s similar decision, the Fourth deferred to the judgment of the legislature, as it was satisfied that there is a “reasonable fit” here. The law provides a means to obtain a concealed carry permit if you can demonstrate specific, articulable need. Otherwise, it serves the above arguable policy points.

Needless to say, this probably won’t be the end of the battle. A petition for rehearing is a near-certainty at this point, as are petitions to the Supreme Court for certiorari in the many similar ongoing Second Amendment cases across the nation.

Bloomberg points out one interesting tidbit — all three justices on this panel were appointed by Democrats (two by President Obama, one by President Clinton). It makes one wonder if a rehearing, by the entire typically-conservative Fourth Circuit, would result in a different outcome.

It also continues to beg the ever important inquiry of whether, or perhaps when (as it’s becoming more and more clear that concealed carry jurisprudence is a mess) the Supreme Court will finally step and solve the circuit splits.

The Seventh Circuit says that the right to bear arms extends outside of one’s own home and concealed carry is a right — but reasonable restrictions might be allowable. The Second and Fourth Circuits approve “may issue” or “good-and-substantial reason” requirements. The Tenth Circuit says there is no right to bear arms in public, citing dicta in an ancient case involving guys on a boat.

State courts have fallen on either side, and everywhere in between.

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