By Brian Witte
PASADENA, MD.: Maryland residents have been buying guns in record numbers before a law takes effect Tuesday, with provisions aimed at helping keep guns away from criminals and the mentally ill, strengthening safety training and banning 45 types of assault weapons.
Opponents decry what they call an ineffective law that will only make it harder for law-abiding citizens to exercise Second Amendment rights. They say the state also failed to prepare properly for implementation after Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is considering a run for the White House in 2016, pushed the complicated measure through the General Assembly to build his credentials for a potential Democratic primary race.
On Thursday, opponents of the restrictions sued in federal court in Baltimore, seeking to block the legislation from taking effect. The court scheduled a hearing for Tuesday on their motion for an order that would temporarily block implementation while the court considers whether to permanently bar Maryland from enforcing the law.
When O’Malley signed the legislation in May, he highlighted a provision that will require residents who buy a handgun to be fingerprinted to own a handgun, making Maryland the sixth such state to do so.
“States with similar licensing provisions have substantially lower gun death rates than states that do not. So, if we want better results, we have to make better choices, and this legislation is part of that series of better choices that we are making,” the governor said. The other states are Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.
But state Sen. Nancy Jacobs, a Republican who opposed the measure, questioned the effectiveness of the law, including the fingerprinting provision. She said she submitted the required digital fingerprints when she made a recent gun purchase and was told they could not be recognized correctly. The senator from Harford County also said criminals will find other ways to get guns, as they always have.
“They are going to continue to buy them on the street,” Jacobs said. “They are going to continue to break into peoples’ homes and steal them. They will get them.”
The law also will limit gun magazines to 10 bullets.
It gives the state police authority similar to that of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to check gun dealers’ inventory to find out if there are guns missing or any that have been sold to disqualified purchasers.
State Sen. Brian Frosh, a Democrat who led the debate for the measure in the Senate, said while the law won’t be a panacea for gun crime, its many components will save lives and prevent injuries.
“In sum, I think it will make a big difference, and the individual pieces will each make Marylanders safer,” Frosh said.