The Maryland Constitution contains no explicit provision conferring a “right to bear arms.” Article 28 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights provides “[t]hat a well regulated Militia is the proper and natural defence [sic] of a free Government.”
In Scherr v. Handgun Permit Review Board, an appellate court held that article 28 creates no individual right to bear arms.1 The court stated: “[t]he Maryland Declaration of Rights is silent as to the right to bear arms. [There is no case that] supports the proposition that the mere fact that a constitution provides for the establishment of a militia means that the citizens have a right to bear arms.”2
The Maryland Attorney General also has discussed the scope of article 28.3 The Attorney General was asked to opine whether a certain bill would violate Article 28. That bill would have required the licensing of handgun purchasers and placed restrictions on the purchase of handguns and ammunition and on the manufacture or transfer of assault weapons. The Attorney General concluded that the proposed bill was not inconsistent with article 28, stating that “[g]iven the omission of any language referring to a right to bear arms,” a court would likely construe Article 28 “as nothing more than a directive to the General Assembly to provide for a militia.”4
Under Maryland law, “[a]n opinion of the Attorney General construing a statute will not be disregarded, except for strong reasons…. While not binding on this Court, the opinions of the Attorney General are, nevertheless, generally entitled to careful consideration.”5
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- 880 A.2d 1137 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 2005).
- Id. at 1156.
- 79 Op. Att’y Gen. 206 (1994), 1994 Md. AG LEXIS 76.
- 79 Op. Att’y Gen. 206 (1994), 1994 Md. AG LEXIS 76, *5-*6.
- Scott v. Clerk of the Circuit Court For Frederick County, 684 A.2d 896, 899 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 1996), citing Dodds v. Shamer, 339 Md. 540, 556, 663 A.2d 1318 (1995).