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Montgomery County Council to consider bill to restrict ‘wear-carry’ gun permits

Bodyguard with gun on the front of the door

The Montgomery County Council is considering a bill that would restrict the rights of gun owners who want to carry their guns with them, even if they obtain Maryland’s wear-carry permit that allows them to do so.

In discussing the county legislation in a briefing Monday, Council President Gabe Albornoz explained why he wants to restrict the ability of gun owners to carry their firearms with them.

Noting that an increase in crime has heightened concern about personal safety, he said, “I don’t believe more guns is the solution; and this bill is a reasonable approach to ensure that in our community, we keep our residents safe.”

The bill would restrict firearms “in or within 100 yards of a place of public assembly,” including handguns as well as “ghost guns” — privately made firearms without serial numbers — rifles, ammunition or a “major component for these firearms.”

Mark Pennak, an attorney and the president of Maryland Shall Issue, a group that has litigated on Second Amendment rights cases, said, “It’s kind of legally stupid what they’re doing here,” referring to the council’s proposed bill.

“The Supreme Court has held that you have a public right to carry with a permit, and you’re now wanting to eliminate that right?” Pennak said, while asking, “Do you know how the federal courts are going to receive that?”

Pennak said there is nothing in the Supreme Court ruling that would prevent Montgomery County from prohibiting firearms in public buildings, such as schools, courthouses or boards of education buildings, for example.

“But what they can’t do is ban public carry with a permit everywhere in the county, where people may assemble,” Pennak said.

During a briefing with reporters on the upcoming county legislation, Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy voiced his support for the legislation, saying of the recent Supreme Court ruling, “ I thought the lower court had it right, not the Supreme Court.”

Montgomery County police Chief Marcus Jones said the debate over how and where gun owners can carry their sidearms is interesting. However, he has grave concerns about seeing more people able to wear and carry firearms without having to provide a need for them.

“People, probably in their minds, think having a gun will make them more safe,” Jones said. But then he asked people to consider, “How efficient are you in really, when it comes to these high-intensity type of situations, to be able to handle a weapon?”

Jones also voiced concern about circumstances where an off-duty officer in plainclothes, or a citizen acting to defend someone against a criminal, could be mistaken for a suspect themselves.

In a recent ruling, the Supreme Court, struck down restrictions that say gun owners would have to present a rationale for applying for wear-carry permits.

In the wake of the decision, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued a statement saying the state’s “good and substantial” requirement would no longer be used by state police as they process applications because the restriction is unconstitutional.

Pennak said he believes that the number of people seeking wear-carry permits is surging, likely over 10,000.

WTOP has contacted Maryland State Police to ask about the previous number of applications in the pipeline and how many permits they’ve seen since the Supreme Court decision was handed down.