Gun Control in Maryland
The rise of armed crimes has been a concern in recent years. Many
crimes are nowadays carried out using licensed firearms, and this has
been a concern to the government authorities. Firearms licensing is
meant to allow citizens to own firearms for their own security purposes.
This is done after meeting a couple of requirements which are unique to
each state. Recent years have seen an unprecedented rise is civilian
firearms, and this has also allowed criminals to own firearms. This rise
in civilian-owned firearms has led to a sharp increase in gun- related
crimes. For this reason, the government of Maryland has introduced a
number of gun- control laws to limit the spread in gun ownership.
Maryland has been one of the states that have always had gun control
laws since 1886. Maryland’s senate has been very instrumental in
passing gun control laws.
The first gun control law was enacted in 1886. This law restricted the
ownership of a firearm to government officials. Additionally, the
official could only carry a firearm if the position held required that
the individual should own a firearm. The purpose was to limit the
possession of firearms to government officials only (Etzler, 2013).
Later on, the state’s government passed a law in 1929 which restricted
the ownership and use of machine guns. This was after a fatal shootout
in Chicago where seven mobsters were killed. This legislation banned the
use and ownership of guns except in military and scientific circles
only. In addition to this, the law required that all those who owned
machine guns to register them.
Gun control in America has, however, been reactionary in most cases.
This is because most laws are passed after a fatal gun- related crime,
instead of legislating before a crime occurs. For example, in 1934,
congress passed the national Firearms Act, after the St. Valentine’s
Day massacre in Chicago. The law imposed a tax on forty- five firearms
and also required the owners of those firearms register them. This is
because there were many civilian- owned firearms and the law was
supposed to legalize this ownership to reduce crime rates.
Maryland is one of the states where a large number of civilians own
firearms for their own protection. Thus, the government of Maryland is
always ahead in passing gun control laws. In 1996, the state passed
another gun control laws ahead of the national government. This law
required that those who applied for firearm ownership wait for seven
days before being issued with a firearm and a license. The motive was to
give the Maryland state police enough time to carry out background
checks on the purchaser. This would eliminate the likelihood of
criminals owning guns. Additionally, those with violent personalities
would be denied to own guns as they would be a security risk to other
people. The national government followed suit in 1994 after James Brandy
was seriously shot in the head, during the assassination attempt of
President Ronald Reagan. These laws also carried a jail term for those
who owned illegal firearms.
In 1972, the state of Maryland passed another law that required only
those with substantial reasons could carry firearms in public. The
senate argued that rapid urbanization had resulted in increased crime,
in Maryland, and thus, many people were compelled to carry firearms.
However, the senate sought to limit the spread of firearms to restrict
unnecessary ownership of firearms. However, this law was challenged in
court in 2012, in an appeal by Woollard Sheridan, when the court ruled
that a good and substantial reason was not particular. This meant that
the law effectively limited the number of guns on the streets, but did
not guarantee the safety of citizens, in Maryland.
The state of Maryland was ahead in gun control legislation again, in
the 1980s. This was after a series of gun-related crimes rose sharply.
These crimes were being carried out with the use of low quality
handguns. The crimes were code- named Saturday night special. The state
passed legislation banning these firearms and formed the Handgun Roster
Board in 1988. The board is still active to date, and it is mandated
with determining the kind of guns that can be sold in Maryland (Etzler,
2013). This effectively reduced the number of small firearms in the
state, which were previously used to commit a crime. The seven day
waiting period was also added, and assault rifles were added to the list
of firearms that required mandatory background checks.
The 1990s saw the state of Maryland pass the highest number of gun
control laws. This was informed by a sharp increase of gun- related
crimes in the state since 1975. In 1992, a law was passed that required
gun owners to secure their firearms. The aim was to prevent children who
were under sixteen years of age from accessing guns when they were under
no supervision. In 1994, the governor also signed a law which banned
detachable magazines of twenty rounds capacity. This also included
weapons that were defined as assault pistols. During the passing of this
law, there was a proposition, to ban ammunition and handgun sales,
allowing the placement of more restrictions on firearms, and all
purchasers were to have a license to allow them to purchase a gun.
However, these propositions were rejected.
In 1996, the state of Maryland passed a number of laws that regulated
the use and ownership of firearms. These laws included the limitation of
firearm purchases to one firearm per month, it criminalized straw
purchases, and firearms must be childproof and must have safety devices,
additionally, the law gave judges the power to order the confiscation of
firearms during a protective order in cases of domestic violence. The
law also gave security officials the power to search and seize guns in
areas that had cases of domestic violence. The Responsible Gun Safety
Act that was passed in 2000 required that all guns manufactured before
January 2013 have an external safety device to protect children. The
protective device must be incorporated into the firearm. The guns are
thus, manufacture with a switch that is switched on and off as required.
These laws also added a mandatory training of safety standards for
those who wished to purchase firearms. The Handgun Roaster Board was
updated, and the law also added a mandatory ballistic fingerprinting
requirement. Since then, the state of Maryland has been passing more
legislation meant to control the use and spread of firearms. The
state’s gun control laws are stricter than those of other states, and
this makes it one of the safest states in terms of gun- related crimes.
It should be noted that the state of Maryland’s gun control laws have,
in many occasions, guided the formulation of the country’s gun control
laws. For example, in 1994, congress passed a law that banned assault
weapons, similar to that which had already been passed, in Maryland.
The strength of gun control laws has been support of these laws by all
arms of government. This collaborative relationship ensures that the
laws are strictly enforced and observed. The legislative arm of the
government has been the most instrumental in passing these laws. The
state’s legislature has over the years passed bills, laws and
amendments that have put strict control on guns and gun use. The
judiciary has been supportive by blocking lawsuits that challenge these
laws. The executive has also supported these laws, most notably, the
signing into law of the legislation, by the state’s governors.
Currently, the state of Maryland is still passing a number of laws that
restrict gun ownership, use and purchase. One of the key legislation is
a mandatory training on gun safety before being issued with a license.
The law also requires that all those being issued with guns, submit
their fingerprints before being issued with a license. This law was
passed in 2013 after a school massacre in Connecticut that killed school
children and teachers. This is meant to assist investigations in the
event that such a crime occurs again in the past (Johnson, 2013).
The state of Maryland also passed another law that banned the sale of a
total of forty- five assault rifle in the state of Maryland. These are
rifles that have been linked to a record of about four hundred and sixty
one deaths in America since 2004. In addition, the law reduced the
allowed magazine capacity from twenty rounds to ten rounds. This ensures
the safety of the state’s civilians because the banned rifles are
known to cause fatalities in most cases. The law also prohibits the
issuance of a gun to people who have previously been committed to
involuntary mental health facilities. This also covers people with a
history of mental health problems. The idea is to protect lives by
limiting the fatality of gun related crimes, and ensuring that those who
own guns are mentally stable and can make an accurate judgment.
Maryland’s judiciary has been instrumental in enforcing these gun
control laws. Most notably, Justice Blake denied restraining orders in
the implementation of new gun control laws. She argued that the petition
was brought to the court when it was already too late as the bill was
signed into law that same day (Wagner, 2013). Thus, the petitioners had
delayed filling their lawsuit and failed to produce substantial
arguments as to why the court should bar the implementation of the laws.
In doing so, the court system plays a role in protecting gun control
laws that are passed by the legislature.
The executive arm of Maryland’s government has been instrumental in
passing gun control laws. Most notable is the role of the state’s
current and former governors. It should be noted that most of the gun
control laws were initiated by governors. The current governor is the
one who initiated gun control laws that were recently passed into law.
These laws restrict the number of rounds of ammunition per magazine, the
people who can be issued with firearms, and it also requires that those
who wish to be issued with firearms licenses undergo mandatory eight
hour training. All these laws were passed following the fatal shooting
of twenty students and six teachers in Connecticut. These laws are meant
to protect civilians (Anderson, 1996).
Research has shown that tighter restriction on gun purchase, ownership,
and usage has led to a significant drop in straw purchases. This is
because those licensed to own and carry firearms are put under rigorous
scrutiny before being issued, with licenses to own and use firearms.
This goes a long way in limiting the category of people who own guns.
Additionally, the increase of time taken to be issued with firearms
reduces the availability of guns on the streets. This also reduces the
accessibility of guns to criminals. Most gun related crimes are linked
to drugs wars. Most drug dealers use guns to fight off competition and
straw purchases was instrumental in accessibility of guns by such
criminals. Therefore, the legislation of stricter gun laws has greatly
reduced such incidences (The Baltimore Sun, 2013).
The Firearm safety Act of 2013, however, has some exceptions to it.
These include the recognition that those who owned magazines with a
capacity of up to twenty rounds before October 1 are allowed to keep
them. Additionally, those who purchased any of the banned forty four
assault rifles are also allowed to keep them. This can be seen to be
creating a loophole because those who owned the banned guns and
magazines are allowed to keep them, and this means that they can still
use them. Hunting guns and shots guns are also exempted from this law.
The law also gives guidelines on how to apply for licensing. To begin
with, one has to fill a form with full names, address, and social
security numbers. This license costs fifty dollars and renewal will cost
twenty dollars. Licensed gun owners who violate the law will be charged
a fine that does not exceed five hundred dollars. Repeat offenders will
pay the same fine and in addition to this they will be liable to a jail
term that does not exceed ninety days. This is meant to prevent the
careless use of firearms to commit a crime. It also restricts
irresponsible usage of guns (Cochran, 2013).
It should be noted that the gun control laws have a lot of support from
the public. The recent rise in crimes related to gun use has put people
in fear. Thus, the laws have a lot of public support because it means
that people are protected from irresponsible gun owners. Notably, the
stricter gun purchasing laws has restricted the ownership (Goode, 2013).
This law has ensured that criminals cannot easily buy guns for use in
criminal activities. This has improved security levels because people
who buy firearms for illegal use cannot easily do so. This promotes
security as criminals have a hard time accessing guns for criminal use
The legislation also allows Maryland state police to access information
about licensed firearms owners and dealers. This enables the police to
determine the origin of guns especially those found at crime scenes.
This also enables the police establish those dealers who sell guns
illegally and apprehend the perpetrators for the same offense. This was
informed by the incident of Valley guns in Baltimore. It took ten years
for the manufacturer to be shut down because the police had hard times
accessing information. It was established that the company could not
account for four hundred of its guns, yet five hundred guns found on
crime scenes were traced to the company. Thus, the new law gives the
police more access to information and stop illegal activities by
In addition, many residents of Maryland support the legislation due to
the link of firearms with drug dealers. Research shows that most
careless firearms users are drug dealers. This puts the residents at
risk of gang wars, which involve heavy gunfights. The law, however,
institutes strict control on how one can purchase firearms, and this
effectively reduces the access to firearms by criminals and drug
dealers. This reason has motivated lots Maryland residents to support
the laws because it protects them from dangerous criminals (Violence
Policy Center, 2013).
The country also has a national policy that gives states the directive
to share information in the background check system. This will ensure
that people with questionable criminal records do not have access to
firearms from other states. Most states have a requirement of a
mandatory background checks for those who wish to be issued with
firearms licenses (High, 2013). This is to ensure that people with
criminal records are not allowed to own guns. However, some states have
flexible rules, which can enable criminals to purchase guns. The
requirement of the federal government for states to share information on
background checks limits the ability of criminals to buy guns from other
states and use them, in Maryland. Additionally, people with criminal
records are prohibited from purchasing guns, in Maryland.
The state of Maryland also has very strict laws on illegal firearm
users. This deters criminals from using illegal firearms because the
judiciary usually gives maximum convictions to those found guilty. Thus,
the judiciary has been very instrumental in reducing the acquisition and
use of illegal firearms in the state. This close relationship between
the executive and the judiciary enables these laws to be effective.
Thus, the residents of Maryland are protected from irresponsible gun
use. The legislature also widely consults with the judiciary when
formulating gun control laws in order to formulate laws that have no
The state of Maryland’s judiciary has played a critical role in
ensuring that gun control laws are well implemented. This has mainly
been done through blocking of lawsuits that challenge gun control laws.
For example, before the implementation of new gun control laws in 2013,
some private citizens went to court to challenge the laws. This was on
the grounds that they did not wish to have to submit their finger prints
in order to purchase guns. Additionally, they also opposed the provision
to have compulsory safety training, in addition to the requirement that
all guns sold should not have a magazine capacity of more than ten
rounds. The Federal judge dismissed these lawsuits arguing that the
plaintiffs submitted their suits two days before the implementation of
the laws, an indication that the laws paused no serious threats.
In addition, a Supreme Court overturned a ruling that was opposed to
the requirement that anyone carrying a gun in public should provide a
good and justifiable reason for doing so. The judges stated that this
showed the government’s commitment to ensuring public safety. It also
reduces the rate of crime because it effectively reduces the number of
guns on the streets, thus enhancing public safety (Marimow & davis,
2013). Thus, the Supreme Court acknowledges that it is a constitutional
right to own a gun for protective purposes. However, this should not put
other people at risk. Thus, the state’s main purpose is to first
protect the majority of the people before considering the rights of
The courts have put forward strong arguments that justify the gun
control laws of Maryland. These include the fact that removing guns from
the streets reduces the availability of hand guns to criminals. Since
the introduction of gun control laws in Maryland and other states, the
availability of guns to criminals have greatly reduced. The court argues
that since it is hard for criminals to obtain guns legally, they resort
to stealing guns from hand gun owners. Thus, having guns on the streets
directly puts civilians at risk because criminals target hand gun owners
(Millhiser, 2013). In putting forward these arguments, the judiciary has
played a great role in supporting gun control laws.
Additionally, the court argued that limiting the presence of guns to
homesteads only prevents the escalation of arguments to fatalities. It
is argued that homicides are a result of arguments. Thus, keeping guns
out of the public domain reduces the risk of arguments to become
fatalities. It also reduces police fatal errors in case of a gun battle
between criminals and the police force on the streets. The presence of
guns increases the likelihood of confusion in case of a police shoot out
with criminals (DeConde, 2001). This is because the presence of a third
party may confuse police officers with regard to who is fighting who,
and this increases the likelihood of an accidental shooting at a
licensed gun owner.
The court also ruled that limiting the presence of guns on the streets
allows police officers to focus their resources on more important
matters. The presence of many guns on the resources makes the police
respond more often to presence of guns in a bid to establish who is a
legal gun holder. This wastes resources because the police end up
responding to presence of guns rather than crimes. Additionally, the
police spend more time establishing the legality of gun ownership as
opposed to fighting crimes. The presence of guns on the streets also
makes it hard for police to respond to crimes because more people with
no good and substantial reasons will have guns. The police will,
therefore, be unable to respond to crimes effectively (Millhiser, 2013).
Despite the successful enactment of gun control laws, the laws have
been faced with much challenges and opposition. This mainly comes from
republicans, Gun manufacturers association, and some of the residents of
Maryland. The most recent lawsuit was filed by the Maryland National
Association Rifle. In the lawsuit, the association argued that the law
violated the rights of individuals in protecting themselves. This is due
to the requirement that gun owners should conceal their guns in public
places (Dishneau, 2013). This deters many people from purchasing
firearms because they will need to go an extra mile of hiding the guns
while in public, and this may limit their ability to protect themselves
In addition, the association argues that the classification of a total
of forty- five firearms as assault rifles limits the availability of
guns. This is because these rifles will be banned from sale in the
state. These are notably, some of the most common rifles in the state.
The requirement that handgun owners should be licensed also limits the
sale of small firearms (Whitney, 2012). These are common among gun users
and licensing will require strict background checks which can ban some
people from owning handguns. The association also opposes the taxing of
firearm owners because they argue that it is the right of citizens to
own firearms for their own protection (Dishneau, 2013).
The three arms of government have played a great role in supporting gun
control laws because they work collaboratively. The executive through
the governor of Maryland is at the forefront in proposing gun control
laws (Walshe, 2013). It should be noted that after the Connecticut
shooting, the governor of Maryland is the one who came up with the idea
of stricter gun control laws (Somers, 2013). These ideas were put
forward to the Maryland legislature which then enacted the proposals
into laws and pushed for their implementation. This was in consultations
with the public because the legislature is the government representative
of the public.
The judiciary has played a central role in promoting these laws because
it has increasingly dismissed law suits challenging the laws. This gives
a legal legitimacy to the law and enables it to be well implemented. The
judiciary also plays a great role in interpreting the laws to the
people. This makes the laws more understandable to the public and it
helps them gain public support. In dismissing court cases challenging
the laws, the judiciary gives strong legal backing to laws, making them
hard to be challenged. This also gives the state confidence in
implementing these laws.
The state of Maryland has some of the most strict gun control laws in
America. These laws are always informed by the desire to protect the
public from criminals. One of the most unique laws is the law requiring
that all gun holders should submit their finger prints before being
issued with licensed guns (Somers, 2013). This makes it possible for
police officers identify the owners of guns in a crime scene. Most
states only require a gun holder to submit his or her personal
information before being issued with a licensed gun. The state of
Maryland, however, goes an extra mile to ensure that all gun holders are
strictly identified for safety purposes.
The state of Maryland also restricts the carrying and use of handguns
in public. It states that carrying handguns in public should be backed
by a justifiable reason to do so. This applies to guns carried openly of
concealed. Most states do not allow citizens to carry guns in public.
However, in Maryland this applies to even guns that are concealed. This,
therefore, limits the use and carrying of guns to private settings only.
Thus, it reduces the presence of guns on the streets. Most states allow
citizens to carry guns in public as long as they are concealed (Vizzard,
Maryland has one of the most strict gun control laws in America. This
is because successive governments have come up with strict measures so
as to protect the public. These laws have sometimes influenced national
government gun control laws (Whitney, 2012). It should be noted that the
Obama administration has also been trying to make laws on gun control
using the model of Maryland’s policies. The national government has on
many occasions formulated gun control policies after the state of
Maryland has done so, and this goes a long way in endorsing the
relevance of these laws.
However, it should be noted that despite the successful legislation and
enforcement of these policies, most have been reactionary rather than
protective. Most laws have been guided by previous events that have
resulted in fatal gun crimes. For example, the recent gun control laws
of 2013 were influenced by the school massacre in Connecticut. This
prompted the government to institute measures to prevent such
occurrences in the future. Thus, these laws usually protect people after
tragedies. Imperatively, these laws are supported by a majority of the
Maryland residents (Walshe, 2013).
In conclusion, Maryland’s gun control laws are some of the most
effective laws in America. They also happen to be the strictest. This
adequately protects the residents from gun related crimes. However, the
government should consider moving from reactionary to protective means
of drafting laws. The government should also set a higher, lower age
limit for gun licensing. The current law puts the age limit at sixteen
years of age. The government should consider adding the age limit to
twenty one years. This is because people under twenty one years are not
yet very mature and are prone to making uninformed decisions.
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