'All the reason he needs'

Maryland's requirement that residents show a "good and substantial reason" before they're allowed a permit to carry a handgun is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled Monday.

"A citizen may not be required to offer a 'good and substantial reason' why he should be permitted to exercise his rights," wrote U.S. District Judge Benson Everett Legg. "The right's existence is all the reason he needs."

The common-sense nature of that statement becomes obvious if the principle is applied to other liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. Imagine being told Americans could exercise their freedoms of speech or religion only if they first acquired a state permit, which would be issued only if they could demonstrate a "good and substantial reason" why they needed to speak at a political meeting, pen a letter to the editor or attend services at their church or temple.

Maryland Assistant Attorney General Matthew Fader will appeal the ruling.

"Momentum is moving in our direction," says Alan M. Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation, which has filed several such lawsuits across the nation.

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, a western Maryland Republican who has introduced a bill to protect the right to obtain a firearm for self-defense or to protect one's home or family, applauded the ruling.

"As Judge Legg correctly ruled, the burden should be on the government to prove that an American is unfit to exercise this constitutional right," he said. Amen.