With the recent string of deadly shootings on campuses around the country – including now in Maryland — advocates for common sense gun violence measures are looking to elected officials to take a stand. In the aftermath of the Parkland High School shootings in Florida, families and students began to mobilize to force change at every level of government. Recently in Baltimore City, students marched to City Hall to make sure their voices were heard and that legislators locally and nationally know that they are not going to tolerate inaction. Mayor Catherine Pugh and the City Council have begun to discuss and to provide additional safety measures in schools.
On the national level, however, we have seen President Donald Trump fail to take a stand against the pro-gun policies of the National Rifle Association — and in Maryland, our Republican Governor Larry Hogan has been largely mute. After giving lip service to proposals to reinstate the Clinton-era ban on assault weapons, and to strengthen background checks, Mr. Trump now suggests that arming teachers is the best way to keep our students and schools safe. Both the President and Governor Hogan obviously fear political retaliation from the NRA and its donors. As a candidate, Mr. Hogan criticized Maryland’s assault weapons ban while promising to ease restrictions on gun ownership and permits to carry concealed weapons – which positions earned him an A- rating from the NRA. The longer Trump and Hogan are in office, the more similarities became painfully apparent.
Maryland can’t afford more of the same, while irresponsible gun laws are killing our children. Under the leadership of Governor Martin O’Malley, Maryland enacted the Firearms Safety Act of 2013, and our state currently enjoys some of the most enlightened, common sense firearms restrictions in the nation. Unfortunately, research statistics show that In Baltimore City alone, more than 60% of the guns used in the commission of crimes come from outside the state. Because of relaxed permitting practices of surrounding states, Maryland must be proactive to ensure that our citizens, and especially our children, are protected from outside and unregistered guns.
Clearly, loosening laws that protect Marylanders from lethal weapons purchased and brought in from neighboring states is not the path we want to take towards increased safety for our citizens. Earlier in March, the House Judiciary Committee held marathon hearings in Annapolis on 31 gun bills, many of which dealt with the permit process here in Maryland. The NRA and its allies have lobbied and spent millions in efforts to turn Maryland into a “shall issue” state, removing the standard of “good and substantial reason” to carry a concealed weapon, adopted as a bipartisan measure for gun safety back in the 1970s. Another NRA proposal would grant reciprocity to permit holders of other states, to bring their weapons into our state. In the wake of recent tragedies, advocates against gun violence have stood firm against these and similar proposals to allow more guns in our Maryland communities.
Progressives around the country have argued that more guns are not the answer — they would certainly not make our schools safer. Republican Delegate Kathy Szeliga introduced NRA-conceived legislation this year that would promote the carrying of firearms in our churches by any “law-abiding” member of the congregation, as long as they have permission from the church and are legally allowed to possess a firearm. Does this sounds like a good idea? A shoot-out in church? Republicans lawmakers are consumed with promoting more guns in our communities as a way to make us safe.
The NRA years ago asserted that “an armed society is a polite society.” Numerous studies have given the lie to this proposition — have shown that more guns do not ensure increased safety, they actually decrease safety. Perhaps instead of taking the lead from their NRA donors, and trying to ensure more guns are on our streets, our Republican leaders – in Annapolis and in Congress — might listen rather to the overwhelming percentage of Americans. Law-abiding citizens everywhere support a comprehensive, universal background check. They support funded research on gun safety measures, including closing the gun show loophole, and addressing online purchases that arm individuals who would threaten our children and our families. Time is long overdue to bring back sanity to the firearms conversation.