I’m sure you all remember the article we wrote about how tough gun control affected Maryland when their local gun manufacturer decided to leave the state. So, we’re no stranger to the controversy of over the top gun control in this state. Back in October 1st last year, Maryland passed one of the toughest gun control laws in the history of the United States. We’ve decided to examine the Maryland gun control pros and cons to determine whether this new law proved to be a success or failure. Last year’s aforementioned Senate Bill 281 of 2013 clearly weighs heavily in this year’s 2014 run for the governor elections. Many pundits expected a rally from the bill’s supporters in Columbia. Instead, the press focused more on the debate between Democrat Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown and his adversary, Republican Larry Hogan. The public rekindled the Maryland gun control debate in the wake of the Brown vs. Hogan electoral campaign feud. Is the law too strict, or does it really serve Marylanders’ best interests? How has the law affected Maryland gun sales during the past year? Perhaps most importantly, what does the law actually mean for Maryland?
Lawmakers quickly passed SB 281 in the aftermath of the tragic shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. It places a ban on assault weapons (along with the sale of high capacity ammunition magazines). Under the new law, Maryland police must run a thorough background check before they may issue a license to carry for any purchaser of firearms. This check includes a criminal record verification. This verification process is very similar to the provisions of the old gun control law in the state.
Plenty of amendments exist in SB 281 which add to the previous legislation. For starters, licensed firearms dealers must now monitor their weapons sales. The law granted state police certain extended powers to monitor these sales as well. Of course, when you consider how Maryland has one of the highest counts of guns reported missing in the country, the provision starts to make a bit more sense. However, giving the state police such unregulated power over gun owners could lead to abuse of power in the future. This issue becomes much more complex when you consider how it may affect state gun sales. The law seeks to keep legal sales in check (which has drawn the ire of licensed gun providers). Perhaps its main purpose is to control the potential of guns sold illegally to individuals who would otherwise fail to receive a license for a firearm.
Recently, this new provision in Maryland’s gun control law caused a Parkville gun shop called Valley Gun to close down. Authorities claim many guns sold from this shop would later turn up at crime scenes. However, the law also affects individuals. This same law says individuals should immediately report stolen or lost guns to ensure that they don’t end up in the wrong hands. Many wonder if the new Maryland legislature can actually afford enforcing this measure given the state’s deficit. Right now, authorities enforce a mandatory finger print check at Maryland’s licensed gun shops. But, how will the state reach the more dubious businesses that sell guns without such checks? Many surmise that gun control expenses in Maryland will greatly increase as an effect of this measure. In turn, these people worry that the legislation will put gun sellers out of business while increasing the tax burden on state residents.
What Do the Powers That be Say About SB 281?
The two contenders in Maryland’s upcoming electoral race hold opposing views on the matter of Maryland gun control. Larry Hogan notably opposed the bill last year when it was passed by the Martin O’Malley legislation. Anthony Brown supported the bill and lobbied for it. Brown’s electoral campaign videos have aggressively targeted Hogan as a threat to the Marylanders’ security. Hogan responded by saying he would not want the current law repealed. Instead, he simply wishes to amend it. Furthermore, Hogan expressed his desire to refocus the way the law is implemented in order to drive down the number of people suffering from a mental illness and former convicted criminals who manage to purchase weapons.
The issue remains deeply relevant in Maryland beyond the immediate scope of the governor race. The number of gun deaths recorded in the state during the first eight months of this year dropped by 15 percent compared to the ones posted in the same span of time last year. We should note that extenuating circumstances may play a role in this besides increased gun control (such as a lowered crime rate in Baltimore, better education levels, and so on). While Brown remains as vocal as O’Malley in supporting SB 281 and its provisions, many voters wish Hogan should speak his mind on gun control. It is, after all, an important aspect of local life.