Gun violence prevention advocates convened at the Lawyer’s Mall near the State House in Annapolis on Friday, March 1, to impassionedly call for passage of SB281 Firearm Safety Act of 2013. Organized by Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence (MPGV), the rally enticed hundreds of Marylanders to applaud the governor’s call for perhaps what will become the nation’s strictest gun control law.
The participants expressed support for a bill that would ban military-style assault weapons, limit magazine capacity from 20 rounds to 10, and increase licensing requirements on handgun purchases beyond background checks to include mandatory safety training, and finger printing.
“As Marylanders, we also believe that we have a legacy and we have a responsibility. And that legacy and that responsibility is to lead … to transform the unspeakable loss of a person standing at the grave of a child, and to transform that loss and that pain into action that saves lives,” said Gov. Martin O’Malley.
The governor apparently has the support of the people. MPGV released new polling data Feb. 20 that found that most registered voters in Maryland support licensing handgun purchasers. According to the survey conducted by Opinion Works, 81 percent of Maryland voters would require a fingerprint, criminal background check, and safety training in order to obtain a license to purchase a handgun.
“I commend Governor O’Malley for his leadership in working to make communities across Maryland safer by initiating measures to reduce gun violence,” said Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson, a member of Vice President Joe Biden’s gun task force in a press release from the governor’s office.
“Somewhere it’s got to stop. … I don’t know what will stop it. It’s an awful thing to be walking innocent and you can be dead in a second. It doesn’t allow you any freedom, it’s a mental torture. Your freedom is taken from you now to go anywhere,” said Barbara Brown a retired NASA employee in attendance at the rally.
“Guns are too accessible. I’m appalled that six high school students in Prince Georges County where I live have been killed in the past 6 months. Two were killed last week. One of whom was killed for his tennis shoes, while his body was left in the street. … Guns are used to protect the underground economy … when extend this scenario to include poor and failing schools and inadequate housing racial bias pervasive economic poverty and poor quality of education, our children see guns as a way of bolstering power,” said Reverend Dr. Jay Herbert Nelson II, director of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Office of Public Awareness in Washington, D.C.
As part of Gov. O’Malley’s public safety legislation package is $25 million in proposed school construction funds to strengthen school security with cameras at entrances, automatically locking doors, shatterproof glass, and buzzer entrance systems among other enhancements. The governor’s plan also establishes a Maryland Center for School Safety, a partnership between federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to ensure a comprehensive approach to school safety.
Homicide Rates Declining
State and federal lawmakers and researchers are examining the effects of gun legislation and engaging in discussions regarding the best methods to prevent and stop gun violence in the wake of the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
Gun homicide rates nationally have declined every year since 2007, falling from 12,791 in 2006 to 11,078 in 2010, according to the most recent data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. And the homicide rate declined even more because the nation’s population grew during this period. The homicide rate in 2010, which was 3.6 per 100,000 people, was the lowest since 1981, which is the year the CDC’s online database began.
Maryland homicide data follows the national downward trend, with 306 firearm homicide deaths in 2010, down from 424 firearm homicide deaths in 2007.
However, the number of gun fatal gun injuries nationwide has been increasing, according to CDC data. There were 55,544 nonfatal injuries in 2011 from assaults involving guns—a substantial increase from 44,466 in 2009.
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