By Jeff Johnson
CNSNews.com Congressional Bureau Chief
January 20, 2003

Capitol Hill (CNSNews.com) - The State of Maryland has denied a physically disabled citizen a permit to carry a concealed handgun because he does not have a \"good and substantial reason\" to be armed.

Dan Sullivan worked as an emergency trauma nurse before muscular dystrophy severely limited the use of his legs. He can now walk only with the assistance of two canes.

What Sullivan calls his \"visually obvious physical disability\" makes him an attractive target for criminals, he believes. It also makes it almost impossible for him to flee or physically defend himself from an assault. Despite those facts, Sullivan was denied a concealed handgun permit by the Maryland State Police.

\"Maybe I need to go get a prescription at night, and I\'m leery about going out at night because I can\'t run away from the criminals,\" Sullivan explained. \"The elected officials seem to have very little concern for the safety of the disabled, you know. We\'re not a real concern to them.\"

Police in Maryland require that concealed handgun permit applicants who seek the permit for personal protection provide \"documented evidence of recent threats and/or assaults, supported by police reports and/or notarized statements.\"

Erich Pratt, spokesman for Gun Owners of America, called the requirement \"ridiculous.\"

\"People may die getting all of this documentation,\" Pratt said. \"That\'s just crazy.\"

Sullivan said the prerequisite led him to ask state officials what he believed was an obvious question.

\"Exactly what type and how many threats and assaults have to be endured before one would qualify?\" he asked.

The state police licensing division told Sullivan he could appeal its determination to the Handgun Permit Review Board, which he has done. Two Maryland politicians were somewhat more responsive to Sullivan\'s inquiry.

\"It is disturbing to think there are citizens who feel that they have to remain confined in their homes because it is not safe to be on the street,\" wrote Maryland Senate President Mike Miller (D). \"However, I am not sure that carrying a weapon is the solution to that problem.\"

Miller offered no alternative solution, other than to refer Sullivan\'s letter to someone else. Former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D), who lost her bid for governor in November 2002, agreed with Miller on both counts.

\"It is disturbing that some of our disabled citizens fear they will be attacked because of their disability if they leave their homes,\" Townsend wrote. \"But I also agree with Senator Miller that allowing these same citizens to carry concealed weapons simply because they are disabled is not the answer to the problem.\"

Pratt was appalled at both letters.

\"How callous for people who have police protection themselves throughout most of the day to say to an average citizen, \'You don\'t need to have a gun to defend yourself,\'\" he said.

\"These would be atrocious letters written to anybody, but it\'s made worse by the fact that here\'s a guy who can barely walk,\" Pratt continued. \"To tell him that he can\'t protect himself basically says that he will have to stay at home.\"

But Pratt added that, based on the vehement anti-Second Amendment records of both Townsend and Miller, he\'s not surprised by the content of the letters.

\"It\'s elitist. It\'s callous. And obviously,\" Pratt concluded, \"it\'s written by people who don\'t care whether this man lives or dies.\"

CNSNews.com asked Maryland Assistant Attorney General Mark Bowen, who works with the state police, to explain the criteria to meet the requirement that a citizen have a \"good and substantial reason\" to obtain a concealed handgun permit.

\"To the best of my knowledge, there aren\'t any,\" Bowen said. \"It turns out to be whatever\'s accepted by the Handgun Review Board as acceptable. And again, there is no specific list of what that constitutes.\"

Sullivan said he feels caught between the criminals and the police, an uncomfortable place to be in a state with one of the highest violent crime rates in the country.

\"The police aren\'t responsible for our safety,\" Sullivan said, referring to both Maryland and U.S. Supreme Court decisions that police cannot be sued for failing to protect a citizen from criminals. \"Yet the state is denying us our own ability to protect and defend ourselves. I think that\'s a significant problem.\"

The Maryland Handgun Permit Review Board will review Sullivan\'s application appeal Feb. 5.