Supreme Court refuses potentially landmark gun-control case
A Maryland man appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the state's gun-control laws are too restrictive. The case was seen as a potentially pivotal examination of Second Amendment rights, but the Supreme Court refused it.
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Mr. Williams was arrested after a police officer noticed him rummaging through a backpack near a bus stop. As the officer drove nearby he saw Williams conceal an object in a bush. The officer stopped and asked Williams what he placed in the bush.Skip to next paragraph
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“My gun,” Williams responded.
Williams was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to serve a year in prison.
On appeal, he argued he was not engaged in any unlawful activity with the gun, that he was merely transporting it from his girlfriend’s house to his own home. He said the Second Amendment protects his right to carry a gun for self defense and that the Maryland restrictions were unconstitutional.
He lost the appeal. Maryland’s highest court upheld the constitutionality of the state’s gun permitting law, noting that the Supreme Court had established a Second Amendment right limited to personal possession of firearms in the home – not outside the home in public.
The Maryland court said portions of the Supreme Court’s decision suggesting a broader Second Amendment right were not binding on other courts.
“If the Supreme Court … meant its holding to extend beyond home possession, it will need to say so more plainly,” the Maryland court said.
Williams argued that the Supreme Court has established a general right to keep and bear arms for lawful purposes, including carrying a gun for self-defense in public places.
He said Maryland’s restrictive regulatory system grants permits only to certain individuals like police officers and security guards whose jobs require guns. Permits are also issued to those who can demonstrate they are under an active threat of violence.
Williams said the state’s scheme is too restrictive. “The Maryland court holds that there is no Second Amendment right to ‘bear arms’ (that is, to wear or carry arms for purposes of confrontation or self defense). Any state-granted, discretionary privilege to carry a handgun in Maryland is restricted to a tiny minority of favored individuals, and by law is not available to the ordinary citizens who make up ‘the people,’ “ wrote Williams lawyer Stephen Holbrook in the brief.
Maryland countered that the Supreme Court made clear in its 2008 decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, that its holding would not undercut the enforcement of reasonable restrictions on guns. Maryland’s permit requirements were reasonable restrictions, the state argued.
The Maryland court dismissed arguments that the permit process was too restrictive by citing statistics that nearly 93 percent of applications for handgun permits were granted from 2006 to 2009.
Williams countered that statistics show that the vast majority of those permits were issued to police officers, security guards and other favored occupations. In contrast, Williams’s lawyers said, only 1.7 percent of permits were issued for personal protection.
The case was Williams v. Maryland (10-1207).