RICHMOND, Va. (AP)- Maryland's law requiring handgun permit applicants to demonstrate a "good and substantial reason" for carrying a weapon outside their own home or business is constitutional, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.
The unanimous decision by a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a judge's ruling that the law violated the Second Amendment.
U.S. District Judge Benson E. Legg said in his March 2012 ruling that the right to bear arms is not limited to the home, and that the right of self-defense was impermissibly burdened by Maryland's law. The appeals court said Legg's "trailblazing pronouncement" was wrong.
"The state has clearly demonstrated that the good-and-substantial reason requirement advances the objectives of protecting public safety and preventing crime because it reduces the number of handguns carried in public," Judge Robert King wrote for the appeals court.
Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler lauded the decision.
"Today's ruling reaffirms the considered view of the General Assembly that carrying handguns in public without a good and substantial reason poses unique safety risks that the state may address through sensible laws," Gansler said in a statement.
Alan Gura, lawyer for the Baltimore County resident who challenged the law, said he will either ask the full appeals court to review the ruling or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"It's not the end of the case by any means," Gura said in a telephone interview. "My client would have preferred a different opinion and wants to push forward. It's disappointing that the Second Amendment was viewed with such disfavor."
Vincent DeMarco, the national coordinator of Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, said the ruling will bolster efforts by Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley to reduce gun violence through a sweeping gun-control measure this year.
"This is a great decision in affirming Maryland's authority to protect our citizens from people who shouldn't be carrying guns in public," said DeMarco, who has been lobbying hard for O'Malley's gun-control measure.
Earlier in the day, DeMarco joined Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and law enforcement officials at a news conference in Annapolis to show support for the measure, which would ban assault weapons, limit magazine rounds and create a new licensing requirement for handgun buyers. The measure has passed the state Senate. It awaits action in the House of Delegates.
The state's handgun permit law was challenged by Raymond Woollard, who obtained a permit after a Christmas Eve 2002 home invasion but was denied renewal in 2009. The law does not recognize a vague threat or general fear as an adequate reason for obtaining a permit, and the Maryland State Police review board that handles applications said Woollard failed to demonstrate any ongoing danger seven years after the home invasion.
Judges Albert Diaz and Andre Davis joined in the appeals court's decision.