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Police in this blue state will continue enforcing ‘draconian’ handgun law ruled unconstitutional by court

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Maryland State Police will continue enforcing the state’s handgun law for now, despite a federal appeals court ruling that the licensing requirement is unconstitutional.

“At this time, the HQL law remains in effect and there are no immediate changes in the process to purchase a firearm in Maryland,” the department wrote in an agency-wide advisory after last week’s ruling.

Sig Sauer P320 handgun seen in gun store in Florida

A three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Maryland’s handgun licensing requirement is unconstitutional and overly “burdensome.” (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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Maryland’s Handgun Qualification License (HQL) requires applicants to submit fingerprints for a background check, take a four-hour firearm safety course with a live fire component, and wait up to 30 days for approval before purchasing a handgun, which then requires another application and seven-day waiting period.

Last Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the law is overly “burdensome” and cannot stand under the 2022 landmark Supreme Court decision that a firearm regulation is unconstitutional unless the government can prove it is consistent with the nation’s historical tradition.

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“The challenged law restricts the ability of law-abiding adult citizens to possess handguns, and the state has not presented a historical analogue that justifies its restriction; indeed, it has seemingly admitted that it couldn’t find one,” Judge Julius Richardson, a Trump appointee, wrote in the court’s majority opinion.

But the Maryland State Police’s licensing division said it will continue enforcing the law until the federal court issues a mandate.

Protesters demand action on gun control outside of U.S. Capitol

Gun control advocacy groups rally with Democratic members of Congress outside the U.S. Capitol on May 26, 2022. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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Maryland officials have 14 days to file for a rehearing before the full appeals court. If the state does not file within that window, the court will issue a mandate seven days later, which means the final court ruling would be Dec. 11, Fox45 News reported.

Officials have not yet confirmed whether they plan to file for a rehearing or, alternatively, seek a review before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said in a statement that he would “continue to fight for this law” and that his administration was evaluating its options.

Similarly, a spokesperson for Attorney General Anthony Brown told Fox45 News that they were “weighing options for next steps.”

Main aims firearm

Under Maryland’s HQL law, prospective handgun owners had to take a firearm safety class, submit fingerprints for a background check, and wait up to 30 days for processing before then being able to start the application to purchase a firearm. (Getty Images)

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The NRA previously described Maryland’s HQL as a “draconian process” and praised the Fourth Circuit ruling as a “significant victory, for the Second Amendment and Americans who value constitutional freedoms.”

“Striking down Maryland’s oppressive Handgun Qualification License requirement affirms that the burdensome process infringes on the rights of the law-abiding,” the NRA’s lobbying arm executive director Randy Kozuch told Fox News Digital. 

Fox News Digital’s Brianna Herlihy contributed to this report.


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