Maryland cannot enforce a law requiring people to obtain a license before they can buy a handgun, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday.
The state’s law requires people who want to buy a handgun to first complete steps such as submitting fingerprints for a background investigation and taking a firearms safety training course. Those are requirements for obtaining a handgun qualification license, or HQL.
In a 2-1 opinion, Circuit Judge Julius N. Richardson wrote that the law cannot stand under a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision holding that a firearm regulation is unconstitutional unless the government can show it is consistent with the nation’s historical tradition.
“The challenged law restricts the ability of law-abiding adult citizens to possess handguns, and the state has not presented a historical analogue that justifies its restriction; indeed, it has seemingly admitted that it couldn’t find one,” Richardson wrote. “Under the Supreme Court’s new burden-shifting test for these claims, Maryland’s law thus fails, and we must enjoin its enforcement.”
Senior Judge Barbara Milano Keenan dissented from the court’s opinion.
Gun control advocates decried the court’s ruling.
Everytown Law, the legal arm of the advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety, immediately panned the ruling as “a dangerous and misguided decision.”
Much of the court’s rationale rested with a 2022 U.S. Supreme Court case known as the Bruen decision, which set a new standard for evaluating the Constitutionality of gun laws.
“Requiring handgun purchasers to pass a background check and undergo gun safety training prior to purchasing a gun is not only common sense, it is entirely consistent with the Second Amendment and the new test established by the Bruen decision,” William Taylor, a deputy director with Everytown Law, said in a statement.
Everytown expressed confidence that the 4th Circuit’s decision will be overturned.
This is a developing story. Check back later for more information.
Maryland Gov. Wes Moore defends transportation budget cuts in speech, says trust from policymakers is ‘being tested’
Democratic Gov. Wes Moore addressed controversial cuts to the state’s transportation budget Thursday, largely pointing to former Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration rather than his own for the shortfall.
“Our predecessors turned away from making hard choices on what should and should not be prioritized as a state government,” Moore said as he addressed attendees of the Maryland Association of Counties winter conference Thursday. “So we say we’ll invest in everything — without the resources to do it, … without a plan of how to pay for it, and the budget gap is the result,” said Moore.
On Tuesday, the Maryland Department of Transportation announced a proposed reduction of $3.3 billion in transportation projects, which is poised to curb hundreds of millions of dollars worth of highway and road projects for the next six years and affect funding for the state’s public transit systems.
The governor, who is a month away from completing his first year in office, received a standing ovation from the audience.
But the room quickly grew silent as Moore began to address the recently revealed budget proposals.
Moore said during his speech Thursday that his administration is “still gathering a deeper understanding of where structural gaps exist.”
The Department of Transportation also proposed a slowdown for scheduled revenue increases for local government road projects. This rollback needs to be approved by the Maryland General Assembly, which convenes for the 2024 legislative session Jan. 10.
Certain projects that have already received grants or federal funds, including the Frederick Douglass Tunnel project set to replace a 4-mile section of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor under West Baltimore, will not be affected by the cuts. Baltimore’s long-anticipated Red Line east-west transit project can also move forward.
The budget cuts will likely dash Moore’s hopes to sever the rate of inflation from Maryland’s gas tax that he called for over the summer, which, in part, finances roadwork and infrastructure projects via the state’s transportation trust fund.
Pointing to his job experience in the private sector, Moore said the fund needs to be restructured.
“The transportation trust fund has become so outdated that fixing it requires a comprehensive look at how we fund transportation in the first place,” he said.
Anticipating financial shortcomings for state transportation projects, the General Assembly passed legislation in 2023 to form a commission to study and make recommendations for Maryland’s transportation trust fund. Final recommendations aren’t due until 2025. An initial report is due by the end of December.
A six-year forecast of transportation projects issued earlier this year estimated a $2.1 billion shortfall through the 2029 fiscal year. Revenue expectations, however, have continued to fall.
Moore has had to deliver bad budget news at both Maryland Association of Counties conferences he’s attended as governor.
During his speech at the summer conference, the governor announced to a room full of local officials that Maryland is headed for murky fiscal waters, and told them to prepare to be frugal with their asks in the state budget for fiscal year 2025.
Analysts at the Department of Legislative Services projected in June that Maryland could suffer a structural deficit of $418 million for fiscal year 2025 and a $1.8 billion deficit in fiscal year 2028.
Will Maryland’s governor heed his own budget warning? | STAFF COMMENTARY
Moore also took the opportunity Thursday to bash the Hogan administration’s lack of investment in transportation infrastructure, pointing to Thursday’s announcement that Baltimore’s light rail services will be indefinitely suspended starting Friday. He called Hogan’s handling of transportation projects, like the light rail, “late, and over-budget and unfinished.”
“Papering over the problems — kicking the can down the road — simply asking people to pay more for things that they don’t feel are working — that’s not hard,” Moore said. “The hard thing is fixing a system that’s broken so that we can lead and not simply sustain.”
In an interview after the governor’s speech, Paul Wiedefeld, the secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation, said that light rail services will be reinstated “when it’s safe.”
The governor acknowledged to the conference attendees that the trust he felt he gained from them “is being tested” because of Tuesday’s proposals.
“I do know that in this moment that … trust can be tested. I know because I’ve heard from, I think, each and every person in the room that on Tuesday … we released next year’s transportation budget. There’s a lot of ideas and a lot of thoughts, and that includes funding projects that will move Maryland forward,” Moore said. “But our ability to invest was constrained by one simple truth: Maryland is facing significant structural budget shortfalls.”
But Moore defended the proposed budget cuts, saying the choice his administration made “is the right one.”
“To understand the path forward we need to talk about how we got here; We need to talk about the challenges in our communities; And we need to talk about the discipline this moment demands,” the governor said. “And look: I don’t have all the answers right now. But I do know this: If we face our budget challenges together, we will emerge stronger — and we will prove to the people of Maryland that we can deliver.”
Maryland voters can fill legislative vacancies by mail, if needed | READER COMMENTARY
The argument for appointing replacements to vacancies in the Maryland General Assembly is based largely on the claim that holding special elections would take too long and cost too much money (“Finding a better way to fill Maryland’s state legislative vacancies,” Dec. 5).
Well, there are two simple solutions: Restrict the period of time for campaigning to just a few weeks and conduct the election entirely by mail.
We conducted the Maryland 2020 primary election almost entirely by mail. Many counties then cast more than 50% of their ballots by mail in the 2020 general election.
It’s high time we switched Maryland to voting entirely by mail all of the time just as Oregon, Washington and Colorado have done successfully with lower costs and higher voter turnout.
Filling General Assembly vacancies using vote-by-mail would be a good first step.
— Don DeArmon, Frederick
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We’ve seen a lot of new faces on the NC State Men’s Basketball team this season, but one face we haven’t seen yet is Kansas Transfer Guard/Forward M.J. Rice (6’5″/215)…until tonight.
Rice stepped away from the program for personal reasons earlier this Fall, and when he returned, he had a little catching up to do. It wasn’t until today during shoot around that Rice and Keatts both knew that tonight would be his debut.
“He’d been practicing for the last couple of weeks, and you know, I was just trying to figure out when he was ready. He and I, we talked a little bit after shoot around today and I said ‘MJ you ready to go tonight?’” said Kevin Keatts. “and he had this big huge smile on his face. He’s like ‘You sure you ready?’ He’s like ‘Ask me some plays.’ So he and I sit over there on the scores table at the Dale and we went over plays and I was like ‘You know what, you are ready to play.’”
Out of all the transfers Keatts brought in this offseason, Rice might have the highest ceiling. Rice was a 5-Star prospect in the 2022 recruiting class, and ON3 ranked him as the #24 overall prospect nationally. He committed to Kansas, where he played in 23 games for the Jayhawks as a Freshman in 2022, averaging 2.2 points in 7.6 minutes per game. Rice was a huge pickup in the Transfer Portal, ranked as the #2 player in the Portal, with three years of eligibility remaining.
Rice also isn’t new to the area either, playing high school ball at Durham Academy, before heading off to Oak Hill Academy and Prolific Prep.
In a short sample size, Rice gave us a glimpse of what the hype is all about tonight. He scored 11 points in 11 minutes of play, also grabbing 6 boards. Rice was 5-6 from the field, and hit the only three he took. In the most electrifying play of the night, Rice took it coast-to-coast, finishing with a soaring dunk.
“He gives us another dimension. We’ve been playing with six of our new dudes. Now we added the seventh and I’m happy for him. He’s going to help us. He’s going to be really good for us.” said Keatts. “I said this on the radio just now…we’ve got some older guys, but two really good young players in Dennis Parker Jr. and also MJ Rice. It was good for MJ to see the ball going in. I think he played 10 minutes had 11 points. He made a three. He had a big time dunk, so I was excited for him.”
“He gives us the ability to play a little bit more small ball. If we have to, we can play him and Dennis Parker both at the three and four. Really good defender at that position and can rebound the basketball,” said Keatts. “It’s going to take time. I’m trying to figure out how to kind of put him into the rotation, and now we’ve added another really good exciting piece to it, but it was good to have him back out there.”
Welcome to the Pack MJ! We’re glad you’ve arrived!
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