Maryland is the latest state to pass gun control legislation. Maryland’s law which was approved by the House of Delegates and Senate will ban 45 assault style weapons, limit gun magazine cartridges to 10, require fingerprinting to buy a gun and ban gun purchases to persons who have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution. It will also require that persons report if a gun is stole or lost. I applaud Maryland and Governor O’Malley’s stance on gun laws. This can only be the beginning towards the stand against violence. While Maryland has not been a state associated with mass killings like Colorado, Denver, Virginia and Connecticut, there’s no need to wait for a horrific crime of mass gun violence to occur before passing gun legislation to prevent it.
Maryland’s largest jurisdictions are Baltimore City and Prince George’s County. In both of those areas, the homicide and violent gun crimes are mostly directed in lower socio-economic areas with mostly crimes against and by persons of color. In Prince George’s County this year alone, since March 30, 2013, there have been 24 homicides. Eleven were under the age of 25. That averages out to one every 3-4 days that a homicide occurs in Prince George’s County. That number does not take into effect the number of related crimes that did not end in a murder. And Prince Georges County is considered to be the wealthiest African American county in the country. Angela Alsobrooks, State’s Attorney for Prince George’s County has recently indicated her frustration at the growing number of teen age and young victims who have been gunned down while simply walking the streets. Maryland State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks said, “I am really enraged that a young person in our community with a shopping bag can’t walk down the street without being shot in the back.”
In Maryland, Prince George’s County is not by itself in large numbers of murders and gun violence. Last year, Baltimore City had 217 murders, 20 more than in 2011. And this year in one weekend in January, Baltimore saw 4 killings in a 6 hour period of time.
As a prosecutor, Alsobrooks knows that most of those killings which occur in her jurisdiction have little to do with assault weapons. However, as a preventive measure to prevent those types of gun crimes that may involve assault weapons, it is worth its weight. Maryland’s law will require fingerprints to purchase a gun. And requiring fingerprints for a gun purchase is expected to help lessen the rate of homicides in Prince George’s County and other urban areas like Baltimore. Having prosecuted and defended gun crimes, I know that many guns bought are stolen, lost, purchased with obliterated serial numbers or bought off the street. But some guns are purchased legally by “straw purchasers”, those persons who are really buying the gun at a store for a friend. And the Maryland law with its fingerprint requirement will cut down on purchases made by a friend or family member for a person who might not want to be fingerprinted to purchase the gun for someone else.
An unanticipated consequence of Maryland’s new gun law is the purchase of more assault style guns this year. Many persons fear that their guns will be outlawed. This has caused a flood of persons to want to purchase more guns or new guns for the first time. The Maryland law does not go into effect until October 1. Between now and then, “we’re going to flood the state with assault weapons and then declare victory,” predicted Del. Luiz Simmons, a Democrat from Montgomery County, who believes, given the current pace of sales of all firearms, we could see upward of 100,000 assault-style weapons in private hands by October, up from the 60,000 currently estimated by Maryland State Police.”.
Now we must continue to look to other means to lessen homicides and gun violence beyond this law. Finding other ways to end the types of murders and gun violence crimes that occur in Price George’s County, Baltimore City and other urban areas across the country will require more than just these laws on the books. Certainly, having these new gun laws will no doubt save lives.