Maryland Senate Approves a Sweeping Gun Control Bill

The Maryland Senate approved a gun-control bill in February that would make it the strictest gun control state in the nation. Governor Martin O’Malley proposed the bill. The key piece of the legislation (and the most controversial) is that it tightens restrictions on gun purchases by residents committed for mental health treatment.

Although O’Malley targeted just those residents committed involuntarily for mental health treatment, the Senate also banned future gun sales for those Maryland residents who undergo voluntary admissions. Specifically, patients who are admitted to a hospital to undergo an emergency psychiatric evaluation on a doctor’s recommendation, and agree to be admitted to a psychiatric facility, would be banned from buying guns. This part of the bill was added against the recommendation of mental health professionals because of its potential to increase stigma.

Maryland law currently prohibits purchases of guns by those who are found not competent to stand trial because of a mental illness, as well as those who have been committed for thirty consecutive days to an inpatient mental health facility. Maryland already limits gun purchases to one a month, conducts universal background checks, and prohibits assault pistols.

Other aspects of the bill under scrutiny include a provision for digital fingerprinting upon purchase, completion of an 8-hour firearm safety and shooting class in order to acquire the license necessary to purchase a gun, and broader background checks to obtain a firearms license. There is also a proposed ban on assault weapons (that Republicans have successfully narrowed) and ammunition magazines containing more than 10 bullets.

Many who believe the bill, especially the fingerprinting provision, violates their Second Amendment rights fiercely oppose it. Upwards of 1,300 people signed up to testify against the bill at the House hearing at the start of March. The Baltimore Sun reported that Republican Senator E.J. Pipkin said, “You certainly wouldn’t be expected to be fingerprinted to go to church.”

Although the mental illness provisions have received a lot of media attention, experts advised lawmakers that stricter licensing laws in other states have led to fewer gun deaths, because if a license is needed to purchase, it is less likely that a person will buy a firearm on behalf of a criminal or someone they think might commit criminal acts.

The Washington Post noted that more than four dozen other gun control bills have been introduced by Maryland lawmakers. Some of them are harsher than those proposed by Governor O’Malley. One, for example, requires a gun dealer to ask the purchaser out loud at the time of sale and record an answer to: ‘Have you ever been convicted in Maryland or elsewhere of a felony?’ The hope is that this will act as a deterrent and aid prosecutors in going after people who lie on a firearm purchase application.

Gun control law appears to be undergoing significant change in Maryland. If you are dealing with criminal charges that involve guns, hire a qualified and knowledgeable criminal law attorney today. Contact lawyer Anthony Fatemi and his legal team for a legal consultation. They have years of experience in Maryland criminal defense, including charges involving drugs, handguns, domestic violence, DWI, sex offenses, felony, theft, and assault.

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