Article originally written on The Washington Times.
August 10th, 2012,
ANNAPOLIS — Responding to a court decision that could scrap the state law requiring concealed-carry permit applicants to provide “good and substantial reason” for needing firearms, a Baltimore lawmaker wants to require handgun owners to complete a training course.
Sen. William C. Ferguson IV, a Democrat, introduced a bill Thursday that would require the training and prohibit permit holders from carrying guns in places like churches, bars and movie theaters.
He said the bill is aimed at ensuring permit holders are responsible arms owners. An April U.S. District Court ruling could increase availability of state gun permits by removing the requirement for applicants to prove they need a gun for work or protection from a specific documented threat.
The ruling is currently shelved until the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals hears the case in October.
“I think gun advocates and folks in favor of gun control should both agree that if you’re going to carry a gun and it’s concealed, you certainly should be trained with it beforehand,” he said.
Maryland law does not currently require handgun-permit applicants to get training. The bill would require applicants to complete training six months before requesting a permit, but would exempt law enforcement and military members.
Mr. Ferguson’s bill is unlikely to pass during the special session, which is expected to end Tuesday and will focus almost entirely on bills to expand gambling and protect pit bull owners.
The senator said he hopes to at least start a discussion that could lead to a work group on the issue this fall and legislation next year.
Delegate Michael D. Smigiel Sr., Cecil Republican, said there has been bipartisan interest in requiring handgun training if the district court ruling is upheld. However, Mr. Smigiel has some issues with Mr. Ferguson’s bill and is expected to submit his own version on Friday.
Mr. Smigiel said he is not opposed to requiring training, but is concerned the senator’s bill could force applicants to go through police-conducted courses rather than private ones run by groups like the National Rifle Association.
He also criticized restricting permit holders from carrying guns in places such as churches and movie theaters.
He pointed to recent mass shootings in an Aurora, Colo. movie theater and a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., and argued that lawmakers would be better off allowing responsible owners to carry guns that could help them subdue gunmen in such places rather than forcing them to go in unarmed.
“It shows a real misunderstanding of the need to carry,” Mr. Smigiel said. “What you’re doing is asking that it be left in the car, and the number one place where firearms are stolen is from cars.”