By Abby Rogers
Del. Michael Smigiel wants people who have been issued a permit to carry a firearm in Maryland’s border states to have the Second Amendment right to carry them here.
But the Maryland State Police, which handles gun permit requests, vehemently opposes Smigiel’s proposed legislation.
At Tuesday’s hearing in the House Judiciary Committee, Smigiel, R-Cecil County, and supporters presented his bill that would allow people who have been issued permits, including concealed-carry permitted in Delaware, Pennsylvania and Virginia, to carry guns into Maryland.Smigiel said voting against the bill would violate the oath of office legislators take.
“When we tell people who have been vetted in their states that they don’t have the right to exercise the Second Amendment, we are violating our oath that we took to uphold that constitution, to uphold Maryland’s constitution,” Smigiel said.
The residents of Maryland’s border states have the ability to carry firearms, and will not travel to Maryland if they feel their right to keep and bear arms is being taken away from them once they cross state lines, Smigiel said.
“Why would we infringe upon of the rights of those of our neighbors?” he asked
Not everyone at the hearing took as literal of an approach to the Second Amendment as Smigiel.
“My awareness of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the interpretation of the Second Amendment, the ruling has not been as definitive as you might indicate,” Maryland State Police Lt. Jerry Beason said. He added that the court has allowed states the freedom to decide how they administer the amendment.
The State Police oppose the bill because of the varying standards for permit approval between the states, Beason said. Maryland conducts a more comprehensive background check than Pennsylvania, Virginia or Delaware.
Virginia doesn’t require fingerprints for its applications, while Maryland and Delaware do. Pennsylvania doesn’t require a picture on its application, something that both Maryland and Delaware require.
Maryland also requires that every applicant demonstrates a “good and substantial reason” for his or her request — something that proved to be a point of contention during the meeting since no one had a definition for the term.
Since the definition for “good and substantial” has not been legislated, the 3-man gun-permit unit has to use court decisions when make its decisions, State Police Cpl. Aaron Knaub said.
“We try to handle these as consistently as possible across the board because no two people are the same, Knaub said.
Smigiel said he has persistently asked the police for a definition for good and substantial reason, but they won’t define it.
During the State Police’s presentation, Smigiel asked Judiciary Chairman Joseph Vallario-D Prince George’s, if there was a definition for the term and was told there wasn’t one.
“If that was defined for us as good and substantial reason by you all, then that would make our lives easier as well,” Knaub said.
“Do the Maryland State Police accept the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as a good and substantial reason?” Smigiel asked. He said he listed the Second Amendment as his reason for wanting a permit, and was told it wasn’t a good and substantial reason.
“I would just like everybody here and everybody viewing to know that in fact the Maryland State Police do not accept the Constitution or the Bill of Rights Second Amendment as a good and substantial reason,” Smiegiel said.
“How you’re applying the second amendment is not necessarily how the Supreme Court has looked at it,” Knaub fired back.
The police have asked for guidance in defining the term, Beason said.
The more than 10 people who turned out in support of the bill said it has as much to do with trust as anything else.
Dr. Ray Miller said he got his permit in Florida and to do so he had to undergo mental and physical evaluations as well as legal training, in addition to other requirements. Because he completed the training, 32 states believe believe him to be “an honest, law-abiding citizen with a squeaky clean record.”
“But not the state of Maryland,” he said. “That’s one of the few states, my own state, that doesn’t trust me when 32 others do.”
“I believe it’s a matter of the government trusting its citizenry,” Maryland resident Scott Miller said about states that have liberal gun laws.
Four people, including the Rev. Madeleine Beard from the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, came to the hearing to oppose the bill.