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Anne Arundel gun dealers sue the county for alleged first amendment violation

Posted at 4:37 PM, May 11, 2022

ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY, Md. — Anne Arundel County recently implemented a bill that requires gun stores to have suicide prevention pamphlets readily available for customers.

However, a few gun store owners aren't too happy about it and are suing the county for a first amendment violation.

The bill was created to give gun buyers mental health resources, as every-day, 64 Americans die by firearm suicide, but gun dealers say the bill is forcing them to say what the county wants instead of having the option to remain silent.

Bill 108-21 requires all gun stores in Anne Arundel County to provide buyers with a pamphlet for gun safety and suicide prevention.

Businesses that don't comply can receive fines of over $1,000. In an effort to combat this, the organization Maryland Shall Issue, and the business field traders, Cindy's Hot Shots, Pasadena Arms and Worth-a-Shot Incorporation have filed a lawsuit against the county.

"You simply have a right not to take a position at all. In the dealer's case they would prefer to conduct business without engaging with this exchange of literature with their customers. It means it's a fundamental right not to say anything at all," said Attorney Mark Pennak.

Pennak is the president of Maryland Shall Issue, a gun rights organization. He's also the legal representative of the business owners, who believe the county is forcing gun dealers to submit to compelled speech, but county leaders say the law was made to address mental health.

"When people are purchasing a firearm, we hope that most of them are doing so with good intent. But we want them to know that there's help out there, if they're in a situation where, whether it's depression or suicidal tendencies and to be able to reach out for help," said Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman.

"We just want to have the option to remain silent. We should not be forced to engage in a topic if we do not want to. Businesses owners should be allowed to focus on their business. The county is fining store owners for not talking about mental health but evidently that's not the business they are in," said Pennak.

The county would not comment on the lawsuit, but they did say protecting residents is their priority.

According to lawsuit documents, on July 15, 2022, the county must have their experts ready.