Maryland passes tough gun control law, something Congress won’t do

Maryland’s historic law requires fingerprinting, a gun license, no straw sales, 10-bullit limit on magazines, and a ban on 45 guns. Photo: Without gun control laws, would this be the norm?

WASHINGTON, April 5, 2013 — Unlike Congress that hasn’t the will, the guts or the votes to do so, Maryland last night passed a tough, no nonsense gun control law, handing Governor Martin O’Malley a significant victory.

Unlike Connecticut and Colorado, which saw massacres happen within their own states, Maryland had no such impetus to act, except its outrage at what is happening in this country, especially after the slaughter of innocents in Newtown, Conn.

While Maryland is a Democratically controlled state, it also boosts a significant rural population in the mountain region of  the west and the farmlands on the Eastern Shore, home to hunters and gun advocates. In fact, the gun advocates are not only organized, but they are extremely strong in Maryland. Both at their rallies in Annapolis and testifying before the Maryland legislative hearings, gun rights supporters out-numbered the gun control advocates by ten to one.

Maryland State Capitol where history was made

The Republican lawmakers stood unanimously against the bill, trying all sorts of legislative tactics to water it down and insisting that Maryland already had some of the strictest gun restrictions in the nation. The gun lobby, the NRA and the National Association for Gun Rights ratcheted up their campaign to stop the legislation with money and hard lobbying.

To little avail. Even the threat by gun manufacturer Berretta USA that it would pull their factory out of Maryland and with it 400 jobs if O’Malley’s gun control proposal passed, the Maryland legislature held firm.

In the end, the Maryland legislators did what Congress cannot seem to do because unlike Congress, which is held hostage by the threat of a Republican filibuster and frightened Red state Democrats, creating legislative hell and a do-less-than-nothing Congress, Maryland could schedule straight up or down votes.

Here is what Maryland passed, the first significant change to its gun laws in twenty years. It now goes to the governor for his signature, making Maryland one of America’s most rigorous gun control states:

* Maryland would force a gun buyer to provide fingerprints, undergo classroom training, take target practice, and have a background check before obtaining a license to buy a firearm before receiving an ID card issued by the Maryland State Police. The ID card would be similar to a driver’s license, probably with a photo, and it would have to be renewed every 10 years. The exceptions to the law are hunting rifles and shotguns.

* A ban on 45 different kinds of guns, including assault weapons, goes into effect. Some of those weapons are made by Berretta USA, which would still be allowed to sell them outside of Maryland. Those people who now own one of the banned guns, can still keep it.

* A 10-bullet limit on magazines is now the new standard.

Fingerprints are now required to purchase a gun

* The state police would have the power to audit gun dealers.

* More information about the mentally ill would be sent to a national database for background checks, thus allowing the state to keep the wrong people from owning guns, based on having a mental illness or having committed a violent crime.

* Gun owners would be required to report all lost or stolen weapons to the police or face stringent penalties.

* Straw purchases, in which a person buys a gun for someone else, usually a person with a criminal record, would be reduced by the new requirement for fingerprints, compulsory training and need for a state license, thus shrinking the number of guns being bought on the street.

The NRA has already warned Maryland that its lawmakers will pay a high price for their votes. “They’ve awoken [sic] a sleeping giant,” explained NRA lobbyist Shannon Alford. Even as the gun lobby once again argues that the new requirements are a violation of Second Amendment, Maryland police and prosecutors praise the licensing provision, predicting that it could be even more important in reducing crime than an assault weapons ban since violent crimes with hand guns are a major problem in the state.

However, even as Maryland, New York, Colorado, and Connecticut tighten their gun control laws and Delaware, California, Illinois, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Rhode Island consider tougher gun control restrictions, there are already six states that are considering loosening their gun laws: Arizona, Kansas, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming. Is that a sign of things to come?

Until Congress passes real federal legislation with teeth, hand guns and assault weapons will continue to flow in and out of states with little or no gun laws, leaving havoc and death in their wake. Waiting for states where guns are part and parcel of the culture is like waiting for Congress to get a spine, a long wait.

Yet how long can America wait till legislation like Maryland’s is enacted everywhere? As of the first of April, the number of people killed by guns since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School stands at 3,293, 57 of them children. Time ran out for them.

To contact Catherine Poe, see above. Her work appears in Ad Lib at the Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. She can also be heard on Democrats for America’s Future. She is also a contributor to broadcast, print and online media.


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Catherine Poe

Catherine was named one of the top Progressives in Maryland along with Senator Barbara Mikulski and Congresswoman Donna Edwards. She has been a guest of President Obama in the Rose Garden.

As past president of Long Island NOW, she worked to reform women's prisons in New York, open the construction trades to women, change laws to safeguard battered women, and protect the rights of rape victims. 

Long active in Democratic politics, she served as the presidentof the Talbot Democrats in Maryland for six years and fought to getthe Health Care Reform bill passed.

Catherine has been published in a diverse range of newspapers and magazines, including Newsday, Star Democrat, Rocky Mountain News, Yellowstone News, and the Massachusetts Review.

If Catherine has learned anything over the years it is that progressive change does not come easily, but in baby steps. 

Contact Catherine Poe

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