Gun Lawsuit: MD Attorney General Supports Anne Arundel's Mental Health Law


Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown filed an amicus curiae brief saying a federal appeals court should uphold Anne Arundel County's law requiring gun dealers to give mental health literature. A stock photo of a gun shop is shown here. (Shutterstock)

ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY, MD — Maryland's highest legal official supports a controversial law in Anne Arundel County that requires gun dealers to distribute mental health information.

The news comes as gun dealers and a firearm rights group sue the county, saying the law violates their free speech rights.

A judge sided with the county this spring, saying the law is legal, but the gun groups are appealing the decision.

Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown (D) on Monday urged the federal appeals court to uphold Anne Arundel County's gun law.

Brown's supporting document, called an amicus curiae brief, said easy access to guns is a problem for those considering suicide.

"The devastating toll of suicide, fueled by impulsive decisions born in moments of profound despair, is compounded by the convenience and accessibility of firearms," Brown said in a Wednesday press release. "Education, awareness, and community support play critical roles in recognizing the warning signs and equipping individuals who are struggling with the support and interventions needed to prevent such tragedies."

Firearms are the top method used in suicide deaths, Brown said, pointing to about 45 percent of suicides using a gun in Maryland.

Brown also said suicide is the second-leading cause of death among 5 to 14-year-olds and the third-leading cause among 15 to 24-year-olds in Maryland.

About two-thirds of veteran suicides use a gun, Brown said.

"For every life lost to suicide, a family and a community are forever changed, left shattered by heartbreak and plagued by the haunting question of what could have been done to prevent such a tragedy," Brown said.

How We Got Here

A federal court ruled this March that Anne Arundel County gun dealers must distribute mental health information with each sale.

This decision upheld a controversial gun law requiring firearm sellers to give customers suicide prevention and conflict resolution literature.

U.S. District Court Judge Stephanie A. Gallagher ruled that the law, known as Bill 108-21, is constitutional after four gun dealers sued the county in April 2022.

After losing the initial case, the gun dealers filed their appeal days later. The case is now working its way through the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

The dealers argued that the bill, which was signed into law in January 2022, forced firearm sellers to submit to compelled speech. The sellers are fighting this law in the case Maryland Shall Issue, Inc., et al. v. Anne Arundel County.

Maryland Shall Issue, a gun rights organization, represented these firearm dealers in the case:

"The federal district court dismissed our 'compelled speech' case against Anne Arundel County today, holding that the County's ordinance forcing firearms dealers to distribute the County's views on firearms and suicide did not violate the First Amendment," Maryland Shall Issue said on its website after the initial ruling. "We respectfully disagree with the Court's opinion and will be filing a notice of appeal in due course."

County Executive Steuart Pittman released this statement after the court's original decision to side with Anne Arundel:

"The District Court’s decision ensures our residents have access to valuable suicide prevention and conflict resolution information when they purchase firearms.

Gun violence continues to plague our country and our communities. While the political debate in Washington continues, Anne Arundel County and our Gun Violence Intervention Team will continue implementing common-sense solutions that save lives.

I want to thank Everytown Law and our Office of Law’s legal team for their work on this case, the first of its kind in the country, which could pave the way for other jurisdictions to implement similar legislation. I also want to thank Councilwoman Lisa Rodvien for introducing Bill 108-21, the County Council for their unanimous support, and our Department of Health’s Gun Violence Intervention Team for working to end violence through the exploration of data, good policy, and strong partnerships."

A full timeline of the case is posted here.

To learn more about the specifics of the mental health law, read our first article on the legislation.

Former Patch reporter Nikki Gaskins contributed reporting to this story.


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