By Vandana Sinha
WASHINGTON – Fewer handguns are crossing Maryland’s borders from four states known as major gun suppliers in the wake of the Brady gun-control law, anti-gun advocates said Friday.
The number of handguns from the “major source” states that found their way into Maryland criminal investigations dropped by three-fourths since the 1994 enactment of the five-day waiting period and background check requirements, according to a study by the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence.
Without the Brady Act, “Maryland would have been a recipient state for gun trafficking,” said Handgun Control Inc. President Sarah Brady, who became an anti-gun crusader following the shooting of her husband, Reagan White House press secretary James Brady.
The report found that the number of traced guns recovered in state criminal investigations purchased after the Brady Act was 83.3 percent lower from Ohio, 92.9 percent lower from Kentucky, 99.9 percent lower from Mississippi and 48.7 percent lower from Georgia.
“The Brady Act makes it harder for gun traffickers to bring guns into Maryland,” said Center to Prevent Handgun Violence Research Director Douglas Weil, who performed the study through Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms trace data.
But National Rifle Association officials warned against relying solely on trace data, because it always sniffs the illegal gun’s trail back to the point of purchase, implying a negligent sale even when the gun was stolen from the dealership or a law abiding citizen’s home.
“The majority of handguns today come from theft and the black market, no matter what our friends at `Gun Ban Central’ say,” said Tom Wyld, NRA director of communications.
Wyld said any decline in demand for illegal firearms is attributable to innovative police tactics and criminal justice reforms such as the “three-strikes-you’re-out” policy, not the Brady Act.
And Cpl. Lawrence Johnson of the Maryland State Police Bureau of Drug and Criminal Enforcement noted that the majority of handguns police recover originated in Maryland.
The Brady Act had no impact on handguns that originated in the state because Maryland already had a waiting period and background checks.
“The Brady bill has had no impact on the state of Maryland,” said Sgt. Laura Lu Herman, a Maryland State Police spokeswoman.
A U.S. Justice Department study found about 1.1 percent of Maryland’s 31,362 gun applications last year were rejected because of prior convictions, imprisonment and habitual substance abuse.
According to FBI annual reports, total violent crime in Maryland increased steadily almost 24 percent from 1989, when the state made up 1.8 percent of the country’s crime rate, to 1995, when it made up 2.3 percent of the country’s crime rate.
Murders, robberies and assaults involving firearms in Maryland climbed slightly from 16,911 cases in 1994 to 17,015 cases in 1995, the first year the Brady Act was in effect, before dipping to 15,856 incidents last year, Uniform Crime Reports show.
The FBI statistics also showed that homicides committed with handguns grew at about a 3 percent rate each year between 1994 and 1996.
But Brady was optimistic about her group’s findings, pointing to a 6 percent reduction in Maryland’s crime rate in the first half of this year.
“That’s a good sign,” she said. “It says it’s beginning to make a different, it’s beginning to show.”