A bit of alliteration there. Anyway, I recently received a fund raising e-mail from Martin O’Malley, the governor of Maryland. He wanted to inform me of Maryland’s recent success in curbing gun violence and urged me to support the Democrats.
Throughout my career as a prosecutor, city councilman, mayor of Baltimore, and now governor of Maryland, I’ve had to attend too many funerals for men, women, and children who have lost their lives to gun violence.
I’ve spent my career working with law enforcement to drive down violent crime, and I am happy to say that today, we are taking another step forward toward curbing gun violence.
Yesterday, our state legislature passed a comprehensive public safety package that will make sure fewer mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters will lose a loved one to gun violence in Maryland.
The measure would require people who buy a handgun to submit fingerprints to state police, bans 45 types of assault weapons, and limits gun magazines to 10 bullets. It also addresses firearms access for the mentally ill.
Maryland will become the first state in nearly 20 years to require potential handgun buyers to submit fingerprints to state police. Only five other states have a similar requirement: Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey.
Gun control advocates say the fingerprinting requirement will help keep guns away from criminals, because it will make people reluctant to buy firearms for those who are not allowed to have them. Opponents say the bill erodes Second Amendment rights and ultimately penalizes law-abiding citizens without focusing on lawbreakers.
Although the measure bans 45 types of assault weapons, people who own them now will be able to keep them. People who order the weapons before Oct. 1, when the law would take effect, also would be able to keep them.
People who have been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility won’t be allowed to have a gun.
The first question that should be asked about all of this is will this legislation actually reduce crimes committed with guns and will the public be any safer as a result. In general, criminals will likely be less affected by any tougher gun control laws than law abiding citizens for the simple reason that being criminals, they are not likely to obey any particular laws. This is not necessarily an argument against the Maryland legislation. It may well be that the benefits will outweigh the costs. The costs have to be considered, though. Is Governor O’Malley prepared to divert law enforcement resources to suppressing the illegal and semi-legal trade in firearms that will develop? Are these measures worth the irritation and aggravation they will cause people with a legitimate need for guns? Will they actually prevent enough crime to make it worth the trouble?
I notice that Governor O’Malley describes the legislation he signed as “a comprehensive public safety package”, without mentioning the detail that this safety package seems more designed to make it more difficult for law abiding citizens to obtain firearms. Why doesn’t he just openly and honestly say something to the effect that he thinks that private possession of firearms causes gun crime and that it is a matter of public safety to discourage such ownership by making the process of obtaining them by private persons as onerous as possible? Why are the Democrats pushing “gun safety” and not “gun control” as they used to? I imagine because they can’t afford to be so honest. American public opinion has been becoming more libertarian in the past few decades, and Americans are less impressed with the idea of government controlling much of anything they were half a century ago. Note that our recent economic recession did not push American public opinion towards favoring bigger government as liberals had hoped it would. Public opinion has also shifted against the government telling people what guns they can own. So, the Democrats have had to change the slogan.
Here is more from Governor O’Malley.
Even though the proposal is supported by a large majority of Marylanders, we had to work harder than ever before to pass it into law. The interest groups who oppose actions to reduce gun violence are powerful, entrenched, and well-financed, and they fought us every step of the way in Maryland — just as they’re fighting tooth and nail to block any action at the federal level.
The governor does not cite any polls so I have no idea how many Marylanders actually supported the legislation. It would probably depend on how the questions were framed. If asked, “Do you support the proposal to limit gun violence?’, an overwhelming number of people would say “yes”. If the question was, “Do you support a law that will make it more difficult and onerous for citizens to acquire firearms with the ultimate intent of prohibiting gun possession altogether?”, then even in deep blue Maryland an overwhelming majority of people would expression their opposition.In any event, the number of people who support the governor’s proposal is irrelevant. Our constitutional rights are not decided by popular vote, nor is any law a good idea, just because a large number of people support it.
The comment regarding the powerful and well-financed interest groups is a curious one, if you stop to think about it. The idea seems to be that there is one course of action that is obviously the right one and which is best for the common good and anyone who opposes this action can only oppose it because they are selfish and uncaring of the common good. Hence, the unnamed special interests (the NRA or Gun Owners of America) oppose Governor O’Malley’s proposals not because they may think they are bad ones or that they have better ideas, but because they are selfish and maybe even want to see more gun violence. In practical terms this idea of special interests versus the common good means that the persons who are most affected by any proposed legislation, the ones with an interest so to speak, are the same persons who ought not to have any influence on that legislation.
What will happen next in Maryland? I have no idea. It is likely that the new laws will be tested in court and there is an even chance that they will be overturned. Gun stores in Maryland will be making record sales and profits until the new laws go into effect. Crime may well increase and this will be taken as a sign that Maryland’s gun control laws are not tough enough and need to be strengthened. Maybe they will end up banning knives and clubs. Or, maybe politicians like Martin O’Malley will someday learn to leave people alone.Well, I can dream.
- Gov. Martin O’Malley: The Things That Work to Curb Gun Violence (huffingtonpost.com)
- Harry Reid can’t ban the AR-15 – but Maryland might (tv.msnbc.com)
- A Big Win on Guns (democrats.org) A big loss for freedom
- Maryland: O’Malley to Join List of Governors Who Will Sign Away Your Rights for Political Gain (nraila.org)
- Several states offer to take in gun manufacturer after Maryland passes assault weapons ban (redalertpolitics.com)
- Baretta warns it may leave Maryland over O’Malley bill (cornhusker4palin.newsvine.com)