no secret that crime rates in Baltimore are at all-time highs. With
more that 320 murders this year and luckless tourists being beaten in
the streets, the illusion of safety conjured with the whimsical moniker
“Charm City” has given way to “Murdermore.” City residents are mortified
as they consider the almost nightly bloodbath, and a beleaguered police department is in no position to assuage their fears.
streets – and in many cases even the family homes – are simply not
safe. But try to obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon for
personal protection in Baltimore and you’ll wonder whose side Maryland
lawmakers are on.
Few subjects in America are as polarizing as the
issues surrounding the right to bear arms. Yet when it comes to the
area of self-defense, people from both sides of the debate are starting
to find common cause. That was evident on Saturday, when Baltimore
attorney and veteran civil rights activist, A. Dwight Pettit, addressed the quarterly meeting of the group, Maryland Shall Issue.
The meeting took place in the assembly hall of Baltimore’s War Memorial Building.
Shall Issue (MSI) is an all volunteer, non-partisan organization
dedicated to the preservation and advancement of gun owners’ rights in
Maryland. MSI seeks to educate the community about the right of
self-protection, the safe handling of firearms, and the responsibility
that goes with carrying a firearm in public.
Pettit spoke for some
thirty minutes about his personal journey in trying to obtain a
concealed weapon permit. His story served as backdrop to the difficulty
Baltimore City residents face in securing and using a gun for
“What’s happening with crime in Baltimore City has
reached emergency proportions,” said Petit. “There is a great concern
amongst citizens who want to protect themselves, but there seems to be a
racial disparity when it comes to obtaining a carry permit. I think
this gets into the legal theory of equal protection under the law.
question is: How do you obtain the data? Does it come through the
Freedom of Information Act or through the litigatory process?”
recalled two landmark cases he was involved with in the 70’s, where
racial inequities were exposed through the legal system. One dealt with
the number of African-Americans admitted to the Maryland State Bar. The
other centered on race-based arrests. In both cases, the suits relied
heavily on statistical information.
“In applying for gun permits
today in Maryland, race is something that is requested on the
application. If they have those statistics, then they would also have
information on people who have been granted or denied a permit. If the
litagotory process is moving forward, that would have to be part of the
grounds for establishing an equal protection argument.
believe the courts have established that, if you can show a statistical
imbalance, then you have shown a prima facie case for the other side to
come back and refute that evidence – that there is no discrimination.
have a big problem in Maryland. I’m going through the process, even as
we speak. Back in the 70’s, I had a permit to carry, because I was doing
my own investigations. I was going into neighborhoods where frankly no
one should go, to take measurements at crime scenes and so forth. I
renewed my permit once, but the second time around I let my permit
expire. But given the situation today, I feel a need to once again carry
Pettit said his current concealed weapon permit application
has been in the works for well over six months. Some of the hurdles he
has had to jump have included providing the state with his decades-old
military service records in lieu of mandatory firearm training;
appearing for an interview to corroborate information he had affirmed on
his application; and producing business financial records – including
his banking deposit slips.
“The officer at the interview also asked about references – even though he said he sees me on television all of the time.
after months of this process, I am waiting. And I’m sure if I am
approved, (the permit) will come with so many restrictions it will be
As an example of the onerous restrictions law
abiding citizens face, Pettit noted he has represented a number of
uniformed security officers who were cited for carrying legal service
people were going to or leaving work, and the police – in a capricious
manner – refused to accept their travel needs and dragged them into
“These individuals had authority; they were in
uniform; they had a license, and yet they were still prosecuted. When
you have no fundamental standards, then you are violating the rights of
citizens who are subject to police authority.”
Pettit cited other
examples of problems the current laws present to city residents. These
included the need to travel out to Baltimore County for a State Police
interview, when most city residents rely on limited public
transportation; and a requirement to qualify at a live-fire range, when
such facilities don’t exist in Baltimore City.
“In my opinion,
when you look at these progressive laws on the books and consider their
application, you have to ask: ‘Are these laws meant to protect the
public or to take firearms out of a certain racial makeup of the
community? Are they designed to disenfranchise a segment from their
right to bear arms under the Second Amendment?’
“I believe these
restrictions are unconstitutional and are particularly aimed at
African-Americans, at the economically disadvantaged, and at people of
“I speak with people every day, and once they understand
the issue – that criminals are always going to get guns and they are not
going to go through the legal process to obtain their weapons – then
they understand the imperative for protecting their loved ones. The
challenge is that Maryland is one of the few states still in the dark
“I do not believe I could sleep at night in Baltimore City,
if I could not assure my safety and the safety of my family, because I
own a weapon. I think a lot of other people feel the same way.”
(Lede photo: Alien Gear Holster – Wikimedia Commons)