Controlling gun violence: Maryland’s 2013 Firearm Safety Act

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Gun violence is an urgent public health issue in the United States. Many states, including Maryland, struggle with increasing numbers of firearm-related homicides. In 2016, Baltimore had 275 gun-related homicides despite increased arrests for gun crimes. This is a 44% increase from 2014 when 191 homicides occurred in the city.

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Among the 50 states, Maryland has been at the forefront of leading the gun safety movement in the country. In 2013, Maryland passed the Firearm Safety Act that bans the sale of commonly owned high-capacity firearms and magazines in the state. However, this law has been quite controversial.

Maryland Shall Issue, a gun store, and four Maryland residents filed a lawsuit against the Firearm Safety Act with the support of the Maryland State Rifle & Pistol Association. Initially, the U.S. District Court judge in Baltimore stated the law was constitutional and upheld the law. However, in 2016 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit overruled this reasoning by 2-1 vote, stating that high-capacity guns included in the ban were in common use.

Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley who led the passing of the 2013 law, as well as community groups such as Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, have lobbied other states to enact similar policies, believing that this law led to a reduction in gun-related homicides.

Despite the ongoing debate regarding the policy, the Maryland Department of Health and the Maryland State Police have not formally stated their positions with regard to the Firearm Safety Act. In order for the State of Maryland to protect the community from gun violence, it is important for the Maryland Department of Health and the Maryland State Police to release an evidence-based statement of their organizations’ positions. Furthermore, they should do this in a timely manner, before the case’s upcoming court proceedings.

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3 Responses to “Controlling gun violence: Maryland’s 2013 Firearm Safety Act”

  1. tgeier Says:

    This continues to be an incredibly contentious topic in many states and the U.S. as a whole. While I don’t disagree that outlawing high capacity firearms and magazines may be an important step in reducing gun violence and mass shooting, I think it is important to recognize that individual states have very different gun policies.

    For instance, Chicago has also been plagued by an epidemic of gun violence in recent years–much like Baltimore. Chicago is surrounded by states like Wisconsin and Indiana that tend to have much less restrictive gun policies than many solidly Democratic states like Maryland, New York, and California.

    One of the biggest issues related to gun policies is that, while individual states have some control over gun policies, there is no system in place to prevent guns from crossing state borders. And I think such a system would be impossible to enforce. Therefore, I think it is also very important to examine federal gun policy as well. Perhaps banning high capacity magazines and rifles on the federal level would be much more effective in reducing gun violence.

    However, this is incredibly difficult to do. There are very powerful lobby groups, such as the National Rifle Association, that vehemently resist any further restrictions on guns in general. Furthermore, many courts have been reluctant to rule in favor of more gun restrictions due to the Second Amendment protections of the U.S. Constitution.

  2. aosho1 Says:

    Gun safety and policy in the U.S. is very surprising at least to me it is. After so many incidents involving firearms and guns one would think the government would step in as reasonable people and say enough is enough. Some things just seem like common sense but I guess the bureaucratic process doesn’t work on just common sense. And when people are filing lawsuits against a policy that can potentially save lives one begins to wonder if there is any sense of community or of people are just too selfish and inured to the suffering of their fellow human beings

  3. abrow170 Says:

    The fact that the Maryland Department of Health and the Maryland State Police does not have a stance is not helpful in combating the prevalence of homicides in Baltimore City. There needs to be a backing by our government in order to convey the message the importance of the regulation of guns to preserve life. After all of the mass shootings across the U.S. there is a strong need for a limit on automatic weapons and a thorough background check on those individuals buying guns. I think there are alot of politics surrounding why the city has not back the legislation however for the city it may be highly controversial and a possible losing battle to back the legislation if it would not be passed.

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