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Justice

Federal judge consolidates two cases challenging new Md. law to curb open carry of firearms in the state

The U.S. District Courthouse in Baltimore. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

U.S. District Court Judge George L. Russell II issued a memorandum Thursday consolidating two separate gun cases that challenge recently passed gun laws in Maryland.

The judge agrees with a motion filed by defendants Gov. Wes Moore (D) and six other state officials and state’s attorneys that the plaintiffs’ suits present similar arguments.

“Consolidation promotes judicial economy,” the judge wrote Thursday. “Consolidation of similar cases allows judges to conscientiously resolve other pending cases, and a reduction in demand for judicial resources, such as jurors, benefits the community.”

Both suits claim Senate Bill 1 – which prohibits the open carry of guns and restricts where firearms can be carried, including at locations such as active polling places, government buildings, stadiums and a gas plant – is unconstitutional.

The legislature also approved a similar gun measure – House Bill 824 – which establishes additional provisions on who can possess firearms and raises the age for a legal purchase from an adult to 21.

Moore signed both into law May 16.

On that same day, Susannah Warner Kipke, the wife of Del. Nic Kipke (R-Anne Arundel), and the Maryland State Rifle and Pistol Association, filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. The suit also challenged the constitutionality of House Bill 824.

Katherine Novotny, a member of gun rights advocacy group Maryland Shall Issue, is a plaintiff in the other suit with two other gun rights organizations and two residents.

The judge, scheduled to hear both cases, decided the Kipke suit will serve as the lead case.

The plaintiffs opposed the consolidation.

According to judge’s memo, the plaintiffs in the Novotny suit argued that the Second Amendment claims in the Kipke complaint “are numerous and broad” so evidence gathering would differ in each case. The Kipke plaintiffs argued that their suit doesn’t have the same defendants at the Novotny complaint. Moore and Lt. Col. Roland L. Butler Jr., superintendent of the state police, are named in both cases.

The Novotny complaint also sued Joshua Kurtz, secretary of the state’s Department of Natural Resources; Transportation Secretary Paul J. Wiedefeld; Baltimore City State’s Attorney Ivan Bates; Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger; and Harford County State’s Attorney Alison Healey.

“Although both lawsuits name additional State Defendants, all Defendants in both lawsuits are sued in their official capacity, meaning that the State is the effective Defendant in both cases,” the judge wrote.

Both gun measures will go into effect Oct. 1.

The judge set a July 28 deadline for the state to respond to a motion for preliminary injunction to stop the laws from taking effect.

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Federal judge consolidates two cases challenging new Md. law to curb open carry of firearms in the state