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Controversial Gun Bill Passes Senate

holster-648014__480-300x206Senate Bill 1 sparked heated debate when it was first introduced at the beginning of the 2023 Maryland Legislative Session.  The debate was heated for good reason, as the bill originally proposed massive restrictions on where a licensed individual could possess a firearm.  We were skeptical from the outset about some of the bill’s language, which included banning all otherwise legally owned and possessed firearms within 100 feet of a place of public accommodation.  The phrase public accommodation included basically all public indoor spaces such as restaurants, stores and shopping centers, and even included outdoor spaces where people gather to eat, shop or be entertained.  Possession of a lawfully owned firearm would have also been prohibited at hotels and inns under the original proposal.  The overly broad language in the first proposal would have never stood a chance at surviving constitutional challenges, and enforcement would have been a nightmare even if it did temporarily become law.  As such, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee did its job and drastically modified the bill in order to give it a shot of passing Constitutional scrutiny, and as of this week the bill has officially been approved in the Senate.

The revised version of Senate Bill 1 has several new restrictions that take the place of the original public accommodation language in the first draft of the bill.  If the current SB 1 becomes law, holders of a Maryland wear and carry permit would be prohibited from carrying in an area for children or vulnerable individuals.  This section would apply to daycares and public or private secondary schools, youth camps, health care facilities and shelters for runaway youth.  The proposal would also prohibit firearm possession in Government or Public Infrastructure areas, which include buildings owned or leased by the state or local government, college or university buildings, polling sites and electrical plants or storage facilities.  Additionally, the bill prohibits firearms at organized sporting or athletic activities between three or more individuals competing in the same league.  One of the broadest prohibitions would concern Special Purpose Areas, which include locations licensed to sell or dispense alcohol or cannabis for on-site consumption, and thus guns at bars would be outlawed.  Special purpose also includes stadiums, museums, live theater performances and concerts where the audience is required to pay or possess an admission ticket, fairs, carnivals, racetracks and video lottery facilities.

Law enforcement officers, active-duty military, correctional officers and even ROTC members are mostly excluded from these prohibitions, and not subject to the potential penalties that would include up to 90 days in jail and a $3,000 fine for a first offense and up to 15 months in prison and a $7,500 fine for subsequent violations.  Anyone who violates this law with the intent to injure another person faces the same 15-month penalty in addition to any other criminal violation found to have occurred.  There is also a provision in the bill that prohibits an individual from trespassing on another person’s property with a firearm after being warned that firearms are not allowed on the property.  Such a violation could bring misdemeanor charges that carry up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine.

The Bill also clarifies how a licensed individual may carry his or her firearm in public.  With over tens of thousands of new permits requests per year, and the abolishment of the requirement to prove a good and substantial reason to carry, the number of Marylanders with wear and carry permits will continue to increase exponentially.  Senate Bill 1 provides that a permitted person who wears, transports or carries a handgun must have weapon concealed from view under or within the person’s clothing or enclosed in a case.  This provision will be codified in section 5-307 of the Public Safety Article.  Perhaps just as important as providing the legally proper way to carry is that the statute also explains that momentary or inadvertent exposure of the handgun would not classify a violation.

The Blog will continue to follow Senate Bill 1 and all other Maryland criminal bills as the 2023 legislative session rolls along.  If you have a question about a gun law or if you are facing a criminal charge, contact Maryland gun crime lawyer Benjamin Herbst anytime for a free consultation.  Benjamin specializes in wear, transport or carry cases, possession of a firearm by a minor, unlawful possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, firearm possession in a drug trafficking crime, possession at a federal facility and all other violations under state and federal law.  Benjamin is also an experienced Florida gun and weapons crime lawyer, and is available 7 days a week for a free consultation.


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