Gun Shops Must Distribute Mental Health Information In Anne Arundel, Appeals Court Rules

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on Tuesday upheld a law requiring Anne Arundel County gun shops to distribute mental health literature with every sale. A stock photo of a gun shop is shown above. (Shutterstock)

ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY, MD - A mental health gun law was upheld Tuesday in Anne Arundel County, a report said.

The law requires gun dealers to distribute suicide prevention and conflict resolution pamphlets to customers. 

Gun shops argued that the bill, which was signed into law in January 2022, forced firearm sellers to submit to compelled speech and violated their First Amendment rights. 

Four gun dealers sued Anne Arundel County in spring 2022, trying to block the law.

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

U.S. District Court Judge Stephanie A. Gallagher sided with the county in March 2023 and ruled that the law, known as Bill 108-21, is constitutional.

The sellers appealed the decision in Maryland Shall Issue, Inc., et al. v. Anne Arundel County.

They lost their appeal on Tuesday, Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman said.

"We conclude that the pamphlet is simply, and no more, a public health and safety advisory that does not discourage the purchase or ownership of guns," Judge Paul V. Niemeyer wrote in his decision, which was co-signed by Judges Roger L. Gregory and Toby J. Heytens. "And we are confident that gun purchasers in Anne Arundel County will recognize it as such. While such an advisory surely does not discourage gun ownership or undermine Second Amendment rights, it does encourage generous responses to a serious public health issue, and gun dealers might well find it admirable to join the effort."

Pittman released this statement:

"Today's ruling from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the work that came out of our Gun Violence Prevention Task Force was a win for the people of this county.

"The court upheld our right to require gun shop sellers to distribute suicide prevention and conflict resolution pamphlets to customers. That right was challenged by Maryland Shall Issue, Inc. and four local gun shops.

"Anne Arundel County has led jurisdictions across the country in addressing gun violence as the public health crisis that it is. Our Anne Arundel County Department of Health Gun Violence Intervention Team, modeled after our Opioid Intervention Team, is working within the law to educate, intervene, and prevent the shootings that have become the number one cause of death for young Americans.

"I want to thank Attorney General Anthony G. Brown, American Medical Association, MedChi, The Maryland State Medical Society, American Academy of Pediatrics, Maryland Psychiatric Society, Marylanders To Prevent Gun Violence, Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, and our outstanding Anne Arundel County Office of Law with outside counsel at Hogan Lovells for their hard work in support of our case."

Maryland Shall Issue has not yet commented on its website or social media.

The group's last update on its website says "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. We respectfully disagree with the Court's opinion. We filed a notice of appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and the Court held oral argument on that appeal on December 8, 2023. We await a decision."

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