Guns in Baltimore

Gun control has been in the local news recently, with Governor Hogan’s appointees to the state Handgun Permit Review Board under scrutiny. The board’s job is to review appeals against state police denials of permits, which are issued according to a state law requiring gun owners to demonstrate a “good and substantial” reason why they should be allowed to carry a gun outside the home. One nominee, Richard Jurgena, has said he believes the law to be unconstitutional, raising doubts about his willingness to apply the law rigorously when reviewing appeals.

The 2008 Supreme Court case of DC vs Heller finally established that the Constitution preserves the individual right to bear arms in the face of any state or local laws to the contrary. Yet the editorial points out that a federal appeals court has upheld Maryland’s law, on the grounds that the law is “reasonably adapted” to local safety concerns. Does this invalidate Jurgena’s objections?

The trouble from my point of view is that the local safety concerns are probably bogus. There is no correlation between state homicide rate and state gun laws; other factors are clearly more significant in accounting for why some states are more violent than others. But more importantly there is the matter that the individual right to self-defense is a natural human right, and no positive law can take that right away. Self-defense includes the use of any weapons justly acquired.

Where this right must yield, however, is when you are on the property of others. This is why the state does not presume to stop you from owning a gun at home, but it does deny the right to carry one on public property. The question then is this: who is the rightful property owner of public property? Obviously, it is the taxpayer, which means at least every resident citizen of Maryland. Preventing law-abiding Marylanders from carrying their own guns in public is a denial of their human rights.

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