Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley signed a comprehensive gun control bill into law on Thurday, putting the ‘Free State’ in line with New York, Colorado and Connecticut as being one of the handful of states that have tightened restrictions on gun ownership in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary.
According to the Governor, the bill — known as The Firearm Safety Act of 2013 – is designed to “save lives” by banning certain so-called ‘assault’ weapons, limiting magazine capacity to 10 rounds, and requiring mandatory fingerprinting for handgun purchases.
“Together with the men and women of the General Assembly, a strong coalition of advocates, and the people of Maryland who overwhelmingly support policies to reduce gun violence, we’ve chosen to take action by advancing the strategies that work to save lives,” said O’Malley in a press release.
“The legislation signed today takes a comprehensive, common sense approach to help keep our communities safe while striking a balance between protecting the safety of law enforcement and our children, and respecting the traditions of hunters and law-abiding citizens to purchase handguns for self-protection,” he continued.
Here is a list of the various gun control measures covered under The Firearm Safety Act of 2013:
- Requires licensing, fingerprinting, and safety training to purchase a handgun- important steps that experts at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research say are effective in preventing gun violence;
- Bans the sale of 45 types of assault weapons (including the AR-15) and certain copycats, weapons that have been used to gun down at least 461 Americans since the federal ban sunset in 2004 including at least 35 police officers;
- Limits magazine capacity to 10 rounds (previously 20 rounds) aligning Maryland’s magazine capacity limit with that of states’ with the lowest firearm death rates nationwide;
- Makes the use of “cop-killer” bullets in any violent crime a separate offense;
- Requires mandatory reporting to law enforcement of lost or stolen firearms making failure to do so punishable by a civil fine (or a 90 day misdemeanor for a subsequent offense);
- Bars persons who receive probation before judgment for violent crimes from possessing firearms;
- Establishes a single automated gun application process between gun dealers and the Maryland State Police;
- Strengthens the Maryland State Police’s ability to regulate gun dealers allowing them to shut down rogue dealers whose guns result in a disproportionate number of crimes; and
- Prohibits persons who cannot lawfully possess firearms, such as those prohibited based on a prior conviction or a mental health disqualifier, from possessing ammunition.
What the The Firearm Safety Act of 2013 DOES NOT do, at least according to the press release:
- Does not prohibit lawful citizens from obtaining or owning a handgun;
- Does not require additional licensing procedures for hunting rifles and shotguns;
- Does not force citizens who lawfully possessed an assault weapon prior to the bill’s passage to surrender their weapon or to register it;
- Does not require companies who manufacture assault weapons in Maryland to stop production; and
- Does not require current lawful gun owners to retroactively obtain a license.
As far as mental health is concerned, the law aims to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill by doing a number of things, including expanding the category of persons prohibited from possessing guns to include anyone involuntarily committed for any length of time and improving the sharing of mental health records between state and federal agencies.
With respect to school security, the law will appropriate $25 million from the school construction budget and dedicate that to improving school security. State police and school officials will also use the funding to review school emergency plans in the event of an active shooter.
One measure conspicuously absent is funding for armed school security, such as a SRO or Student Resource Officer, which was part of the NRA’s School Shield Program. Polls showed that Marylanders supported putting SROs in schools but Democrats in the Legislature killed the provision.
At the end of the day it appears that pro-gun control lawmakers and advocates got everything they wanted and gun rights activists got — for lack of a better description — hosed.
The fact that Maryland gun owners got screwed was made even more apparent by the NRA’s reaction to the bill’s passage.
“The National Rifle Association’s position and concerns will be made very clear when we file our lawsuit,” said Alexa Fritts, spokeswoman for the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, in a brief e-mail statement on Wednesday.