Federal action to restrict access to the kinds of weapons used by the Connecticut mass shooter and others is essential, as would be an effort to tighten the background check system to help keep guns out of the wrong hands. But Maryland lawmakers should not stand by and wait. There are meaningful restrictions that can be enacted on the state level that would not only help prevent a mass killing like the one in Newtown but could also give police and prosecutors more tools to prevent the near-daily killings that have plagued Baltimore for years.
Legislators in both the House and Senate have said they plan to introduce a state-level assault weapons ban and to enact stricter limits on the size of ammunition magazines that are allowed here. (Maryland limits magazines to 20 rounds; the Connecticut shooter used 30-round magazines, and the shooter in this summer's movie theater massacre in Colorado had a 100-round drum magazine, though it jammed.)
No matter what
The truth, though, is that handguns are a much bigger public safety problem in Baltimore than assault weapons, and some of the legislation under consideration in
One is a bill sponsored in the past by Sen. Brian Frosh that would authorize the state police to audit the inventory of gun dealers in the same way the federal
But we urge the legislature to go further and enact a licensing system for gun purchasers. Although interstate gun trafficking is a problem, the most common way criminals in Baltimore get guns is through straw purchases. But if the purchaser is required to go first to a law enforcement agency to be fingerprinted, he or she is much less likely to agree to the deal.
A 2001 study led by
Licensure doesn't eliminate handgun violence, but it makes it more difficult and expensive for criminals to get guns. If Maryland is serious about reducing the threat of gun violence, it is the most important step lawmakers could take.