ANNAPOLIS – Gov. Martin O’Malley’s decision to beef up his proposed gun control legislation with a requirement that would ban the purchase of firearms by anyone who has been committed involuntarily to a psychiatric facility is “very important,” said Sarah Brady, spokeswoman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and wife of former White House Press Secretary James Brady.
O’Malley’s proposal regarding the mentally ill is of particular interest to Brady, whose husband was shot and paralyzed during a 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. The shooter, John Hinckley Jr., is mentally ill and has been mostly confined to a psychiatric facility since being found not guilty by reason of insanity for the assassination attempt.
Brady, 71, who has actively campaigned for tighter gun control legislation since the 1980s, said she and her husband are as committed to the cause as ever.
“We’re still here, getting older,” said Brady, appearing in the State House in Annapolis. “But we’re both still interested in this issue.”
“I’ve slowed down a lot but I pep up when this issue comes around,” she said.
O’Malley’s proposals, which the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to debate as early as Thursday, aim to ban assault rifles, update handgun licensing requirements to include digital fingerprinting, improve school security and keep firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill.
On Tuesday, O’Malley strengthened the mental health aspect of his proposals to include a ban on the sale of firearms to anyone who has been involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility, regardless of the amount of time spent in the facility. O’Malley’s initial plan required that patients be involuntarily committed for at least 30 consecutive days before they would be eligible for the firearm ban.
“Maryland has always been ahead of other states” when it comes to gun control laws, Brady said.
The strengthened mental health component of the law mirrors legislation already passed in Virginia following the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech.
The strengthened licensing requirements put forth in O’Malley’s plan are designed in part to keep friends and relatives of criminals, or citizens who are otherwise permitted from purchasing guns, from purchasing firearms on their behalf.
“They understand that public safety is the most important thing,” Brady said of O’Malley and the other Maryland lawmakers currently pursuing stricter gun control legislation.
Other states that have passed similar requirements have “greatly reduced straw purchases,” Brady said.