JESSUP – With multiple purchase gun sales down 80 percent and violent crime continuing to decrease, state officials claimed Friday that Maryland’s gun laws are not only the toughest in the nation, but are working.
“Anyone who wants to doubt that the law works should come here and see what is happening on this table,” said Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend pointing to the more than 250 handguns recovered by State Police. “This is a law that is not sitting on the books, but is in force.”
Maryland gun laws, which went into effect Oct. 1, 1996, require a background check and a waiting period for private handgun sales and limit handgun sales to one a month per person. Officials claim the proof that the laws are working is in the statistics:
* There were 1,618 multiple gun purchases between October 1996 and September 1997 compared to 7,569 the previous fiscal year.
* No Maryland multiple purchase guns have been recovered in Washington, D.C., so far in 1997, while there were 12 in 1995 and 20 in 1996.
* Baltimore police recovered 623 handguns between October 1996 and September 1997, compared to 934 the previous fiscal year.
* Violent crime in Maryland has decreased by nine percent during the first six months of 1997 compared to the same period in 1996.
State officials were joined at the State Police Property Warehouse, where seized guns are stored, by gun control activists Sarah and Jim Brady.
The Bradys praised Maryland’s efforts and said the preliminary results are just the beginning of benefits from Maryland’s tough regulations.
“You are sending the right message to the children and families of Maryland: We can, we must and we will reduce gun violence,” said Jim Brady, who was White House Press secretary under President Reagan. “And you are sending the right message to the gun traffickers and the criminals who sell guns on our streets: Maryland is off limits.”
Gov. Parris N. Glendening said the gun laws are not the only reasons the state is experiencing success. He also cites the addition of 225 new state troopers, creation of the Hot Spot initiative and expansion of the substance abuse program as possible factors.
“No one law, no one initiative will deal with the complexity of the issue of crime in society,” Glendening said. “But the [new gun law] is one of the key components in making our communities safer.”
Glendening called guns “instruments of death” and claimed they “are made for one purpose … killing people and doing harm to our citizens.”
But Patricia Hylton, National Rifle Association media liaison, said the state should focus more on punishment than on limiting gun purchases.
“Maryland should attack criminals rather than law-abiding citizens,” Hylton said in a telephone interview. “These laws are not helping crime, instead they are restricting people’s rights.”
Hylton said a comparison between Maryland and Virginia, which has right-to carry laws, proves her point. She said Virginia is ranked 35th in violent crime and 25th in suicide, whereas Maryland is 6th in violence and 5th in suicide.
Nonetheless, Lucy Cousin of Baltimore, who was at Friday’s event, said her son might be alive today if current Maryland gun laws had been in place earlier. On Jan. 26, 1991, her only son, Charlie, was killed after being shot twice in the back of head. “I don’t see the law preventing this from happening, but it can prevent it from being as often,” Cousin said. “We need to take more drastic measures, before we can stop it from happening at all.” -30-