Threat to safety often not enough to obtain Maryland conceal and carry permit

Majority of applicants feel 'threatened'

Baltimore County resident Anita Schatz still fears for her life.

While campaigning two years ago, a man came up to her and scared her so badly, she ended up having a stroke.

To protect herself, Schatz applied for a Maryland conceal and carry permit.

In a two-page deposition, she laid out the specifics for her request. Schatz started practicing at a gun range.

“I’m scared to go out in public now,” she wrote. “I just want to feel safe.”

During one incident at a polling station during the primary elections in 2012, Schatz was threatened, leading her to suffer a stroke.

Instead of approval, her application was denied under Maryland State Police Code 0060: “not providing a substantial reason.”

Schatz appealed. She’s still waiting for a response.

RELATED: Maryland's assault weapons ban argued in federal court

While anti-gun activists say the permit process remains a fair system, applicants like Schatz feel its preventing residents from fully protecting themselves.

“We should have a right to conceal and carry,” Schatz said. “It’s a national right.”

“May issue” debate

In a public information request from ABC2, reporters looked at the permit applications submitted to Maryland State Police in the last year and the reasons applicants gave for wanting to carry a gun.  Most of the information was redacted.

In the last year, 2,095 people applied for Maryland conceal and carry permits. Of that number, about 227 of the applications were denied.

Of that 227, 189 were denied under Maryland State Police code 0060: “Lacks good and substantial reason.” About 40 percent of them stated they felt their lives were “threatened.”

About 20 of those applications gave police reports stating how and why they were accosted.

Schatz said she didn’t understand why her reason wasn’t “substantial enough” since the incident changed the way she helped out in campaigns.

She provided written letters from public officials and police reports.

“It’s hard to go from the front to the back,” she said. “But I have a family and they need me.”

Carl Gold, a constitutional law attorney at Towson University, said the reason the number of applicants denied is so low is because most residents don’t apply to begin with.

“The rules are so rigorous, many don’t bother,” he said. “The ones that do are in for an expensive legal battle.”

Gold added that laws are less likely to change, after the Supreme Court refused to hear the court case Woollard vs. Sheridan.

In the case, Maryland resident Raymond Woollard sued Terrence Sheridan, then commander of Maryland State Police, for the right to renew his conceal and carry permit after being denied.

Woollard, a Baltimore County resident, had been granted a handgun permit twice after his son-in-law broke into his home in 2002.

When he applied a third time, his permit was decline, prompting the lawsuit.

“It sends the message that the process doesn’t need to be change,” said Gold, referring to the Woollard case. “That refusal had a strong impact.”

Maryland is considered a “may issue” state.  When a person applies for a state conceal and carry permit, they are required to state a reason for obtaining one.

Reasons for denial

Maryland State Police spokesman Sgt. Marc Black said the department, which regulates the permits, examines the applications to determine whether a person has demonstrated “a valid need” to carry a gun.

Black would not comment on why specific cases were rejected, citing they most likely did not present a clear reason to be issued one.

When a conceal and carry permit is submitted, state police use a series of 18 codes to review each application. Denials are usually issued for the following reasons:

1. 0010 - Under 18

2. 0020 - Convicted felon

3. 0021 - Convicted misdemeanor

4. 0022 - Convicted of a state misdemeanor with state penalty of more than 2 years

5. 0023 - convicted of a common law offense federal prohibition penatly of more than 2 years

6. 0030 - Committed to detention, jail, etc., for more than a year

7. 0040 - Convicted of CDS

8. 0041 - User of CDS

9. 0042 - User of alcohol

10. 0043 - Convicted and user of CDS

11. 0050 - Propensity for violence

12. 0051 - Propensity for instability

13. 0052 - Propensity for violence and instability

14. 0060 - Lacks good and substantial reason

15. 0070 - Federally prohibited from purchase/possession of firearm

16. 0080 - Prohibited due to military violation/record

17. 0090 - Prohibited due to mental record.

18. 0091 - (valid reason code in MAFSS, but meaning not indicated)

If a person did not agree with the decision, they could appeal to the an appointed task force made up of five people who review the claims.

Mike Preitl, former chairman of the appeals board, said each appeal that is heard is looked through thoroughly.

“About 75 percent of the time, we sided with state police,” he said. “They take the permit process seriously and are fair in their decision process.”

In one denied application, a man stated he wanted the permit after  his son was awarded primary custody of his two children. The mother started threatening the family's well being.

“The mother of the children’s father has called my son threatening to end my son’s life if he took the children,” the application wrote.

Another person, who calculated their likelihood of getting assaulted, wrote they needed the permit for self-defense because there “was a calculable and substantial likelihood that I will be the victim of violent crime while residing in Maryland.”

Vincent DeMarco, president of the anti-gun violence group Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence,  said it’s important to protect people from gun violence.

With the Firearm Protection Act passed last year in Maryland, he is focused on implementing the reforms, which now include gun applicants being fingerprinted. Many of the sections of that law is being challenged in federal court.

“Our projection is that gun violence in Maryland has dropped by 24 percent,” he said. “It has a lot to do with the state’s sweeping reforms on gun safety.”

Schatz said her denial is an example of why Maryland needs to change it’s gun laws to allow people to feel protected.

“My life has been threatened,” she said. “I want to protect myself and I can’t. Hopefully we can work to alter that.”

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