WashPost Publishes Pro-Gun Control Letter to Editor That's Predicated on Falsehood About Federal Law

Updated (see bottom of post) | Today's Letters to the Editor section of the Washington Post contains five letters on the topic of gun control, three oriented towards more gun control and two expressing a pro-gun rights/enforce-the-laws-on-the-books position.

But one letter in particular is egregious as it contains a huge factual error that Post editors failed to correct: that President Obama signed legislation in 2009 that allows concealed carry in all National Parks.


"I teach art to children at Glen Echo Park, which, like all national parks [emphasis mine], permits visitors to carry concealed firearms under legislation signed by President Obama in 2009," Leila Cabib of Potomac, Md., lamented. "[I]ncreasingly, peaceful public settings have become the scenes of unthinkable carnage because this nation values the right to own a gun over the need for public safety," she added, later insisted that Obama is "putting all of us in harm's way" by "ignoring the need for gun control."

But as the Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe reported in May 2009, the legislation Obama signed allows for concealed carry in national parks subject to the state in which a park lies:

Permission to carry a firearm into a park and the actual restrictions on such possession will vary by state, since the new federal law is governed by each state's firearms laws.

Glen Echo Park is in Maryland, which is a highly-restrictive ("may issue") concealed carry state.

Since Maryland forbids the possession of  weapons in state parks, except for uniformed police officers, it's safe to assume this law applies to federal parks within the state.

What's more, to obtain a concealed carry permit, you essentially have to ask the secretary of state police for permission, and the burden of proof is on you, the applicant, to prove you need to carry a weapon for protection (emphases mine; portion underlined emphasis of Md. State Police):

The Secretary of State Police shall, pursuant to Annotated Code of Maryland, Public Safety Code Ann. §5-306, Qualifications for Permit, issue a permit to a person who the Secretary finds:

1. Is an adult (18 years of age or older);

2. has not been convicted of a felony or of a misdemeanor for which a sentence of imprisonment for more than one (1) year has been imposed;

3. has not been convicted of crime involving the possession, use, or distribution of a controlled dangerous substance;

4. is not presently an alcoholic, addict, or habitual user of a controlled dangerous substance unless the habitual use of the controlled dangerous substance is under legitimate medical direction; and

5. based on an investigation; has not exhibited a propensity for violence or instability that may reasonably render the person’s possession of a handgun a danger to the person or to another; and has a good and substantial reason to wear, carry, or transport a handgun, such as a finding that the permit is necessary as a reasonable precaution against apprehended danger.

So if you can satisfy the secretary of state police with a "good and substantial reason," the secretary "shall... issue" you a concealed carry permit. But the law is a bit foggy as it goes on to state a number of circumstances in which the secretary of state police MAY issue concealed carry permits. The criteria excerpted below are "guidance provided" to help the secretary make his/her decision. You'll notice that even retired cops and currently-employed corrections officers -- who obviously have training and expertise with firearms -- fall into this "may issue" category. (emphases mine):

The Annotated Code of Maryland, Public Safety Code Ann. §5-301, Handgun Permits, and applicable case law, guides the Maryland State Police when processing applications and issuing Handgun Permits. Based on the guidance provided, Handgun Permits may be issued to applicants based on the below circumstances.

1. Owner or employee of a business. You must submit the following documentation to support a request based on business ownership/authorized employee:

a. submit photocopies of the Trader’s License or Business License, and

b. submit the identified items if the purpose of the Handgun Permit is for:

(i) Making Financial Deposits: photocopies of six (6) random deposit slips for the business showing the deposits within a year of the application submission date or a letter from the bank attesting that your business has a monetary flow.

(ii) Cash Flow: photocopies of ten (10) receipts showing purchases for supplies and/or payments received for services.

(iii) Requesting a permit for one of your employees, or if your employee and you have permission from your employer to obtain a permit: a letter from your employer on the business stationary, explaining, in detail, why you need to carry a firearm as part of your duties.

2. Professional Activities: Doctors, Pharmacists, etc., must show evidence of legitimacy of business activity and valid certification or license applicable to your activities.

3. Correctional Officers: Must submit verification of employment and documentation of threats and/or assaults (ie., police reports, facility incident reports, and intelligence reports).

4. Former Police Officers: If you have resigned or have retired, you must provide a photocopy of your retired I.D. card (front and back) and produce a letter from your former agency advising that you resigned/retired in good standing, your official resignation/retirement date and how many years of service.

5. Private Detective/Security Guard/Special Police/Armored Car Guards: All applicants who are employed as Private Detectives, Security Guards, Special Police Officers and Armored Car Guards must submit a certification of qualification with a handgun obtained from a Maryland State Police Certified Handgun Instructor on a State Police form. A copy of the form letter supporting “good and substantial reasons,” ownership of weapon, and location where the weapon will be maintained, is also required. (This form can be obtained from your employer).

6. Personal Protection: There must be documented evidence of recent threats, robberies, and/or assaults, supported by official police reports or notarized statements from witnesses.

And how long, exactly, does the secretary of state police have to get back to you with approval or denial of your application? Three months:

MAIL THE APPLICATION PACKET TO THE LICENSING DIVISION AT THE ADDRESS PROVIDED ABOVE.  ALLOW 90 BUSINESS DAYS FOR THE COMPLETION OF THE APPLICATION PROCESS.

If the Licensing Division does not receive the renewal application, satisfactorily completed, by the expiration date, the applicant must begin as a new applicant and complete all requirements necessary for an initial application.

The renewal process is the responsibility of the applicant and should be started no less than 90 business days from expiration of the handgun permit.  Timely renewal is the responsibility of the permit holder.  The Licensing Division does not send out renewal reminders.

The bottom line: it's highly unlikely Ms. Cabib will encounter anyone at Glen Echo Park who is packing heat, at least, not legally, given how restrictive the state's laws are. Ms. Cabib may have been unaware of the state's laws on the matter, but Post editors most certainly should be, and should have alerted Ms. Cabib of that so that she could edit her letter and re-submit it accordingly.

After all, we're entitled to our own opinions, but no one is entitled to his or her own facts.

Update (August 10, 2012): In the August 7 print edition, the Washington Post published a correction noting that Cabib's claim was factually inaccurate. I cannot find, however, a digital version of this correction (pictured at right).

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters