ANNAPOLIS, Md. – In another floor session filled with veto overrides, the House Minority Caucus yesterday fought for Marylander’s 2nd Amendment rights and pushed to sustain the Governor’s veto of House Bill 4. This bill requires background checks for private sales and transfers of rifles and shotguns in Maryland.
“This bill is the definition of a solution looking for a problem”, said Delegate Kevin Hornberger. “Based on FBI data, you’re more likely to die from being stabbed than from being shot with a rifle or shotgun. Long gun transfers are not the cause of the violent crimes this bill is looking to address.”
“This bill is unenforceable”, said Delegate Wendell Beitzel. “How will law enforcement regulate these transactions when they already struggle to deal with regulated firearms in the hands of those who illegally possess them? Criminals will still obtain firearms illegally and ignore these rules. Only law-abiding gun owners will be harmed by the implementation of this bill.”
Delegates also pointed to a 10-year study by UC Davis and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health that looked at California’s comprehensive background check law for nearly all firearms sales.
“The Hopkins/UC Davis study showed that background checks have no impact on crime rates or death rates,” said Delegate Lauren Arikan. “Even with of the data from a decade of research pointing to the contrary, the author of that study testified in favor of this bill because he said he still believes background checks work. That is not science, that is religion. That is the worst kind of religiosity imaginable. We are passing laws that have no foundation in fact.”
“Tragically, since September 11, 2001, we have lost over 5,600 people to gun crimes in Baltimore City”, said Delegate Dan Cox.”Most disturbing is that 98% of these gun crimes were committed with stolen or illegally-obtained handguns. Yet House Bill 4 will criminalize a law-abiding American who lends a gun to his friend without running a background check and hit him with a $10,000 fine and up to ten years in prison. Meanwhile, the theft of a firearm – an act that is aiding the most egregious crimes in our state – is only punishable by a $500 fine and up to six months in jail.”
“This bill imposes strict liability on a defendant, regardless of his or her intent”, said Delegate Haven Shoemaker. “In other words, the defendant doesn’t have to know the transfer is illegal to be culpable. At a time when the General Assembly spends a great deal of time decriminalizing some crimes and eliminating mandatory minimums for others, it is the height of hypocrisy to impose strict liability for what could be an innocent mistake; like transferring a long gun in the same manner as they’ve been transferred for hundreds of years.”
“This is one of the most divisive and most hurtful bills that this General Assembly has ever passed”, said Delegate Jeff Ghrist. “When we leave home to come to Annapolis, we’re supposed to help our constituents back home and also the residents in other parts of the state. This bill does nothing to help anyone. We talk about how diverse our state is. We talk about coming together as One Maryland. That term, One Maryland, has become cliché here. Urban and suburban legislators are systematically destroying our way of life in the rural areas. Make no mistake, this bill will only serve to further divide us and it will do so while failing to be of any meaningful or measureable benefit to anyone.”
“What has happened to legal gun ownership in Maryland since the O’Malley-era gun laws were enacted is a disgrace,” said Delegate Johnny Mautz. “Legal handgun purchases have decreased by 80% while illegal purchases have become normal in certain areas. In the meantime, firearm-related crimes have skyrocketed. We need to ask ourselves if we’re really making Maryland a safer place.”
“I think we would all support meaningful legislation that would significantly reduce gun crime”, said Delegate Jason Buckel. “But this bill is highly unlikely to prevent any crime. If you have the intent to do evil and are ready to commit an act of violence, this bill isn’t going to stop you. Maryland has some of the strictest gun laws in the United States, and yet we have very high rates of gun violence. Bills like this don’t make us safer, and in the long run they only serve to be another source of division.”