Maryland gun law challenge too late, too little, Gansler says
HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) - The state of Maryland fired back Monday at gun advocates seeking to block a new law creating some of the nation's toughest firearm restrictions, arguing a lawsuit filed last week came too late and lacks merit.
Attorney General Doug Gansler said the plaintiffs - three private citizens and seven gun dealers and associations - waited more than four months after Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley signed the legislation to file the lawsuit.
The law, enacted in response to Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting, adds 45 types of guns to a list of banned assault weapons and limits magazines to 10 bullets. It also requires handgun buyers to be fingerprinted before purchase.
The law is set to take effect Tuesday.
Gansler said the plaintiffs failed to show that their challenge was likely to succeed or that implementation would cause irreparable harm. For those reasons, he wrote, the U.S. District Court in Baltimore should deny their request for an order blocking enforcement of the law.
A hearing is scheduled Tuesday morning.
"Any delay in the implementation ... risks placing more of such weapons and magazines in circulation," Gansler wrote.
The plaintiffs contend the law was passed in "flagrant disregard" of the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
Attorneys John Parker Sweeney and Tara Sky Woodward said the law restricts the ability of law-abiding citizens "to defend themselves, their families, and their homes by prohibiting outright certain commonly used rifles and shotguns and standard capacity ammunition magazines."
Many of the same plaintiffs filed a second lawsuit Friday challenging another part of the law requiring handgun buyers to first obtain, for up to $50, a "handgun qualification license" through a 30-day process that includes submitting their fingerprints.
Maryland handgun buyers already are subject to a seven-day waiting period and $10 fee after purchase to allow Maryland State Police to investigate their background.
The new law has prompted a surge in gun sales ahead of its implementation. State police say they've received more than 106,000 gun-purchase applications this year, up from 70,000 last year. They have turned to other police agencies to help them clear an application backlog that numbered nearly 50,000 on Sept. 20.
The plaintiffs cited the backlog in arguing that the new procedures would create an unconstitutional, de facto ban on handgun sales and should be stricken.
Gansler said the new, pre-purchase licensing requirement would have no effect on the state's ability to process post-purchase applications for background checks. Gansler did not object to a plaintiff's motion to have the court hear arguments on both lawsuits Tuesday.