WASHINGTON – Maryland joined 12 other states Thursday in filing a brief with the Supreme Court opposing a challenge to the Brady handgun control law.
Maryland has a gun-control law in place, but also wants to keep the federal law from being overturned.
“It makes little sense to have a strict law in Maryland and a felon can get [handguns in neighboring states],” said J. Joseph Curran, attorney general for Maryland. “It’s got to be a national law.”
The Brady Law, which took effect Feb. 28, 1994, requires a five-business day waiting period and a criminal background check before handguns can be purchased from dealers.
Maryland is one of 28 states that is exempt from the federal law because its legislature passed a tougher requirement. Maryland’s law, passed in 1966 and recently amended, requires a seven-day waiting period and a background check before citizens can purchase handguns from dealers or other citizens.
Applicants are turned away if they have been convicted of crimes of violence, felonies, or misdemeanors resulting in at least a two-year prison sentence. In addition, applicants who are habitual users of alcohol or illegal drugs are denied handguns, along with some people who have been institutionalized for mental disabilities.
“We kept handguns out of the hands” of criminals,” Curran said during a press conference outside the Supreme Court attended by former White House press secretary Jim Brady and four law enforcement officials. Brady began a fight against handguns after being shot in 1981 during an assassination attempt on former President Reagan.
But now Brady and gun-control supporters face a high court battle.
Two sheriffs – from Montana and Arizona – are challenging the Brady Law because they say the background check is a work burden and violates the 10th Amendment to the Constitution. The amendment says powers not specifically delegated to the federal government by the Constitution should be reserved for the states.
The National Rifle Association is providing financial support to the sheriffs and supports their cause, said spokesman Tom Wyld.
“We, too, feel the Brady Law is unconstitutional and ineffective,” Wyld said. “Commandeering state and local law enforcement officials is the province of the state governments, not Washington politicians.”
The sheriffs’ suit is expected to be heard by the Supreme Court by January.
Law enforcement officials who attended the press conference held by Handgun Control Inc. said the Brady law works efficiently.
“For our organization, the law is not a burden,” said 1st Sgt. Bernard Shaw, a member of the Maryland State Police Licensing Division. “The background check requirement is an essential component.”
Since 1966, more than 15,000 gun applications in Maryland have been turned down, Shaw said. “By passing this [Brady] law, it just makes the person wait five days,” Curran said. “It should be supported.” -30-