When the U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down New York’s rules for obtaining a concealed weapons permit, Robert Bozgoz hopped on his computer and used the case to argue that Maryland officials should approve his application for a “wear and carry” permit.
Bozgoz, 60, who is originally from Oregon, had his carry permit while living on the West Coast. After living in Fort Meade for the past 13 years, the court ruling was the nudge he needed to apply for his permit in Maryland.
“Oh, I didn’t even wait for [Gov. Larry] Hogan ... I submitted paperwork and used the [court’s] decision as reason enough to finally put in my permit request,” Bozgoz said.
Maryland previously required residents to provide a “good and substantial reason” to obtain a license for a concealed weapon (such as for work). That changed when Hogan, a Republican, on July 5 suspended the requirement in the wake of the high court’s 6-3 ruling in the New York case on June 23. Permit applications have shot up for the Maryland agency required to process them.
From June 23 to July 11, the Maryland State Police received 7,165 applications compared to 1,014 for the same period last year.
The agency also reported that the average weekly total for new handgun permit applications was 508.5 through July 28, compared to 234.4 in 2021.
Meanwhile, the state police said it had 43,106 active handgun permits as of July 28. Last week, the agency says, it received 4,091 new applications, 175 renewal applications, two subsequent applications, 261 modification applications and 17 replacement applications via the portal.
When the state police’s licensing division denies applications for reasons such as a lack of documentation, applications are categorized as subsequent, modified or have to be replaced.
Bozgoz said his application has been approved online and now awaits the review of a permit investigator.
So, is it easier to get gun permits now?
But even before an application reaches the desk of a permit investigator, residents contact instructors like Darren Washington, who has trained hundreds of people for firearms use through his business, Sheepwolf Defensive Response.
The company offers self-defense training as well as instruction about the state’s firearms laws, home firearm safety and handgun operation. Applicants must show that they can safely fire a handgun.
“For those who could not get the permit with restrictions in place before, they’re going to take full advantage of this,” he said of the revised state rules.
He said he is concerned that some well-intentioned gun owners will try to enforce laws, which he said should be left to authorities.
The “wear and carry” permit application is only considered by state police after an individual passes a four-hour course to qualify for a handgun license, completes a 16-hour concealed carry course that involves firing shots at a target and pays the fees for fingerprinting and the application itself.
A dozen officers are assigned to the Handgun Permit Unit and 18 to the Administrative Investigations Unit processing the applications. After Hogan made the announcement, the state that same day posted 10 job openings for additional investigators.
Prior to the recent surge in applications, it typically took 30 to 60 days to process an application, depending on the type of permit. State police say it may start to take longer as they wade through stacks of applications.
Before the rules were relaxed for getting a concealed weapon permit, applicants had to provide reasons for wanting one. An approval might be granted to a business owner moving a large amount of cash, an elderly person living alone or someone working in the security field. Now, “wear and carry” permits may be issued to adults who, according to a state website, meet criteria including that they:
- Have “not been convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor for which a sentence of imprisonment for more than one year has been imposed; or convicted of a criminal offense for which you could have been sentenced to more than 2 years incarceration.”
- Have “not been convicted of a crime involving the possession, use, or distribution of a controlled dangerous substance;”
- Are “not presently an alcoholic, addict, or habitual user of a controlled dangerous substance unless under legitimate medical direction;”
- “Based on an investigation, has not exhibited a propensity for violence or instability that may reasonably render the person’s possession of a handgun a danger to the person or others”
Handguns are still banned in Maryland in certain places, including hospitals, public schools, child care centers, state parks, state and national forests, state highway rest areas and state-owned public buildings and grounds.
Bozgoz said it makes sense to ban handguns in certain places, such as where minors frequent. But he questioned why people are not allowed to carry onto state rest stops.
“I don’t understand why you can’t have your handgun while pulled over at a rest stop.” he said. “What, am I supposed to put it in the trunk of my car? It just doesn’t make sense to me.
Edmondson Village resident Daveon Boykin, 38, agrees.
“Whether you’re in [Baltimore] city or county, crime is crazy,” Boykin said. “I submitted my application because the permit will give me the ability to have a form of defense on my person.”
Asked how he would feel if more people carried guns around his three kids in public spaces, he said he was “completely fine with that.”
“I believe that for kids — and adults — that when you take the curiosity away, people tend not to resort to them if they don’t have to,” he added. “You know [a gun] is not a toy and people should be able to always have a means to protect themselves.”
As for pending criminal cases, defense lawyers in jurisdictions across the state are arguing against pending charges of wear, carry or transportation of a handgun without a permit. However, prosecutions for people carrying firearms may vary.
Previous reporting from The Baltimore Banner indicated the Supreme Court ruling could affect the application and review process for “wear and carry” permits more than pending criminal cases.
State police expect to process applications submitted after the executive order by September. State law provides a 90-day window for processing original applications and renewals.