The Shortcomings of Maryland's Gun Violence Policy

By Ethan Tiao

Maryland is one of our nation’s gun-sense legislation beacons. With bans on assault rifles, extreme risk protection orders, and magazine capacity limitations, our state has been a premiere proponent for gun-safety. However, amidst extensive legislative plans to mitigate gun violence, our state has its fair share of gaps. In order to serve as a leading example of safety and gun-sense awareness, we need to begin by doing the following: pass legislation closing Maryland’s long gun loophole, limit the spread of 3D printed guns, add dangerous automatic weapons to the assault rifles ban, and take a more holistic approach to combating urban gun violence, especially in Baltimore.

It is currently legal for an unlicensed dealer in Maryland to sell a rifle or shotgun to another party without conducting a background check. Without sellers being required to assess the safety, health, and law-abiding nature of their buyer, these person-to-person transfers become prime opportunities for dangerous people to acquire shotguns and rifles. Considering that long guns were used in the Aurora movie theater, Washington Navy Yard, Santa Fe High School, and Geneva County shootings, it’s unacceptable that Maryland legislators haven’t taken the steps to ensure that all buyers of these weapons are subjected to background checks. It’s imperative that these weapons are only sold to those who are fit to carry them.

Additionally, we currently have placed no regulations on the transfer of 3D printed gun blueprints and the printing of firearms. As the age of technology continues to progress, 3D printers have become a pathway for acquiring unmarked and untraceable weapons. A 3D printer costs $2,500 - around the same amount as a common assault rifle. These untraceable, relatively inexpensive guns allow people to bypass background checks and firearm databases. In November 2019, the shooter who killed two students and wounded three in a Saugus, California high school used unmarked parts to assemble his firearm. We need to take a proactive approach to remove these untraceable guns from the market and regulate the accessibility of 3D printed weapons.

As many are aware, Maryland has an assault weapons ban. Unfortunately, that ban does not cover certain models of assault rifles that were specifically created to circumvent these very bans. Currently, the Anderson Manufacturing .223 caliber AM-15 and .300 caliber AM-15 are not banned in Maryland. To make matters worse, the .223 AM-15 was used in the Dayton, Ohio shooting that killed 9 people and injured 14 in 30 seconds. If gun manufacturers can simply create an assault weapon with a shorter barrel to escape regulation and oversight, it’s clear that we need to make the ban more comprehensive.

Finally, in Maryland, despite our record on gun-sense reform, we house the 5th highest homicide rate in the country. These deaths are primarily concentrated in Baltimore, our largest urban area. Right now, Baltimore has programs like Safe Streets that work to reduce violence within high-risk communities. By creating an outreach network made up of community leaders and ex-cons, these conflict resolution workers break up preemptive violence and refer high-risk youth and adults to mental health and trauma services. Additionally, they work in hospitals and schools to perform violence intervention and set community members on a straight path. With a 56% reduction in homicides in Cherry Hills Baltimore, it is clear that programs like Safe Streets need additional funding. These programs use evidence-based solutions to target the root causes of gun violence, and more communities in Baltimore desperately need access to the services Safe Streets provides.

As students, it’s up to us to ensure that the necessary steps are taken to close these loopholes and deficiencies in our system. Talk to your legislators virtually, in person, or as a collective through gun-sense organizations to further reforms. Gun violence is not a bipartisan issue. Mass shootings and gun homicides don’t discriminate based on political affiliation. It’s something that affects each and every one of us. We’ve been dubbed by the media as the mass shooting generation. It’s up to you and me to shift that narrative. It’s up to us to make our communities, and country, safer places.

Graphic by Molly Busis

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