A man convicted of violating one of Maryland's strict gun ownership laws appealed his conviction all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Charles F. Williams, a Maryland resident, purchased the gun legally but did not have a permit to carry the gun in a public setting. A police officer spotted Williams rummaging through his backpack. Ultimately, Williams was sentenced to a relatively severe 3-year prison term.
Williams appealed, however, claiming that the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gave him the right to carry a legally purchased weapon in public, even if he did not have a permit from the state of Maryland to do so. It is a violation of Maryland gun possession law to carry a weapon in a public place without a permit.
District of Columbia v. Heller
Williams is relying on the 2008 case of District of Columbia v. Heller, in which the Supreme Court ruled that a Washington, D.C., law that prevented anyone but a law enforcement official to carry a weapon. The court found that the Second Amendment protected an individual's right to keep a weapon in the home. In 2010, the Supreme Court held that state and local laws cannot be more restrictive than federal laws in McDonald v. Chicago.
Combined, Williams argues, these cases suggest that Maryland has no right to restrict gun ownership in public places; rather, the Second Amendment protects gun ownership both inside and outside the home. Unfortunately for Williams, lower courts have found for the state, ruling that Heller should be interpreted narrowly as only protecting gun ownership in the home.
Recently the Supreme Court decided not to hear Williams' case. This means that current Maryland law applies to all gun owners in Maryland, so those wishing to carry a weapon in public must obtain a permit to do so.
Another Appeal Pending
Williams is not the only gun owner convicted of violating state and local laws to appeal to the Supreme Court. Sean Masciandaro was driving home from a business presentation when he pulled into a national park in West Virginia to take a nap. A police officer investigated the vehicle and found a loaded gun in the trunk of Masciandaro's car. Ultimately, Masciandaro was convicted of bringing a loaded gun onto national parkland. The Supreme Court has yet to decide to hear the case, but if it rules in favor of Masciandaro, it could be a significant increase in Second Amendment rights that allows gun owners the right to carry a firearm in a vehicle. In addition, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill this November that would allow concealed carry permits to be valid across state lines - even in states that do not allow concealed carry permits. It remains to be seen whether that bill will ultimately pass the Senate.
Questions? Facing a Firearm Possession Charge?
As demonstrated by Williams' 3-year sentence, violating a gun law in Maryland carries severe penalties. If you are facing a gun possession charge, contact a criminal defense attorney experienced in protecting the constitutional rights of those accused of gun offense charges.