ANNAPOLIS — A proposed law that would require many concealed carry permit holders of handguns to complete two days of training annually was met with heavy opposition at a Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee meeting this past week.
Sen. Ron Young (D-Frederick), the lead sponsor of Senate Bill 422, introduced the bill, which would require those permit holders to complete courses on “situational awareness” and “competent handling of a firearm,” approved by the secretary of Maryland State Police. The bill exempts law enforcement officers and qualified handgun instructors.
At the bill’s hearing at Thursday’s Judicial Proceedings meeting, several people testified they didn’t think the government should require further training for a concealed carry permit. That included David Weber, a state director with the National Rifle Association.
“Yes, the NRA supports training and extensive training. … What the NRA does not support is government-mandated training,” Weber said. “To us, this is a constitutional right. One should be able to possess their firearms for defense without mandated training.”
Mike Doherty, chairman of the board of the Maryland State Rifle and Pistol Association, expressed a similar view.
“We recommend all of our members get training courses, we recommend that all people should be trained on a regular enough basis,” Doherty said. “If the government is going to mandate a training course requirement, the government needs to provide that training to the taxpayers.”
Doherty and others who testified noted that would be costly. A fiscal and policy note attached to Young’s bill shows that Maryland State Police estimated Young’s bill would cost just over $600,000 to fund in fiscal 2021.
But Young disagreed with that in an interview Friday. He said Maryland State Police issued a high number to the Department of Legislative Services in order to help discourage support for his legislation.
At one point in Thursday’s hearing, Sen. Justin Ready (R-Carroll) proposed a compromise: He would vote for Young’s bill if handgun permits could be issued to anybody who wanted one for self-defense.
“I think it’s a great way to have people practice their Second Amendment rights and defend themselves and their property, but there’s accountability for training,” Ready said.
But Young said Friday he wasn’t interested in broadening the definition of who could get a concealed carry permit.
“I’m not a supporter of everybody carrying guns. I think we’re going back to [the] Wild West days. ... It opens it to everybody carrying a concealed weapon, and I don’t think that’s a good policy,” he said.
Sen. Michael Hough (R-Frederick and Carroll), however, thought Ready’s proposal was good, especially if it would make Maryland a “shall issue” state for concealed carry permits. That would essentially make it easier for law-abiding citizens to obtain those permits, he said.
“It would basically be a burden on armored car carriers and security personnel, people who are required to carry a firearm as part of their job requirement,” Hough added Friday about why he opposed Young’s bill.
Young’s proposal did have some local support. Joe Vince, a professor in the Department of Sociology, Criminal Justice and Human Services at Mount St. Mary’s University, submitted written testimony arguing why Young’s proposal was needed.
In that testimony, he referenced a 2015 study he co-authored with two other Mount St. Mary’s professors, which concluded that there should be mandated training for concealed carry permits.
“Our findings point to the importance of experience and skill level as they relate to how stressful and difficult the encounters are perceived,” the study states regarding situations where handguns and firearms might be used. “Those with more training and experience are better able to remain focused and to later describe the encounter in less emotional and more clinical terms.”
Vince said he disagreed with those who testified Thursday that there wasn’t a need for mandated training.
“It has to be mandated, it has to be across the board,” said Vince, a former chief of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms’ Gun Analysis Branch. “If you’re going to carry a firearm, it’s a deadly weapon. ... Having people not trained is a disaster waiting to happen.”
Young’s bill awaits a decision from the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee before possibly reaching the floor for a second reading.