State Senate passes Firearm Safety Act

Amanda Battle

     On Thursday, February 8 2013, the Maryland State Senate passed the Firearm Safety Act of 2013, enraging conservatives in the state, and providing a victory for gun control activists. The act, a reaction to the December Newtown shooting and other tragic incidents in the past year, passed with a vote of 28-19 in the Senate after long consideration and debate. It is on its way to the House of Delegates, where it could be passed as a new state law.

     This new Maryland legislation provides the strictest gun control bill attempted to be passed in the nation this year, so far. Many conservatives consider it an infringement upon their constitutional rights, specifically their second amendment right to “bear arms.”

      The bill consists of the following major provisions: a ban on assault weapons, a ten round magazine limit, banned weapon regulations, firearm qualification license revisions, and carry permit revisions. The bill is strongly favored by Governor Martin O’Malley. Governor O’Malley’s main objectives of the legislation are the licensing provisions.

     The Firearm Safety Act places a strict ban on assault weapons. Many have argued what the definition of an assault weapon is, and the legislation will make all firearms fitting this definition illegal to purchase or bring into the state after October 1, if passed. Those who own “assault long guns and copycat weapons” will have to register them, or face time in prison.

     There are three categories of guns that have the potential to be banned: semi-automatic handguns, shotguns, and semi-automatic centerfire rifles. The semi-automatic handguns that may be banned are assault pistols and semi-automatic handguns with fixed magazines of more than ten rounds, barrel shrouds, threaded barrels, second-hand grip, or magazines inserted outside of the pistol grip.

     As for shotgun banning, those that have the potential to be illegal are shotguns currently regulated, any revolver-style shotgun, and any semi-automatic shotgun with telescoping or fold stocking and a pistol grip.

     Semi-automatic centerfire rifles in danger for banning are rifles currently regulated, rifles with a length less than 30″, any with fixed magazines greater than ten rounds, those that have forward pistol/vertical grips, any with thumbhole stocks, those with telescoping and folding stocks, any with grenade/flare launchers, and those with flash hiders.

     For banned weapons, regulations will be placed on existing owners of the assault weapon. If one owns firearms that could potentially be banned by this act, they may keep their weapons, but must register them. If a weapon is not registered, one could have to pay a fine or do time in jail. No person under the age of 21 may own one of these weapons after they are banned, regardless of the owner is to register their weapon. Also, any existing owner of these weapons will not be able to sell a banned weapon to anyone in the state of Maryland.

      Along with banning assault weapons, detachable magazines with a round count of more than ten rounds will be illegal to purchase or transfer if the act is passed. “The 10 round magazine limit will impact target shooting. If you have a gun with a clip with more than 10 rounds, you have to get something new in order to shoot,” said Brady King (10).

     Social Studies teacher Mr. Peter Imhoff stated, “I would think that any rational person, including law-abiding gun owners, would agree that assault weapons and large-capacity magazines have no place in the civilian market.”

      The act includes firearm qualification license provisions. Under the act, one must first obtain a license to purchase or rent a handgun. If this act is to be made law, in order to obtain the license, one will have to pay a $100 fee every five years, complete a background and fingerprint test, undergo an eight hour training class, and demonstrate “proficiency and use” with a gun. Overall, the Maryland Shall Issue Organization estimates the total cost of this process to come out to $385.

     “I think the ‘proficiency and use’ qualification for the license is going to diminish the sport of target shooting. Basically, generations in the future will not be able to gain that skill of proficiency and use because you cannot rent a gun to gain the experience needed to demonstrate that. [Future generations] will not be able to get licensed,” said Brady.

      While license provisions will be made stricter, minimal changes will be made to the carry permits under the act. The “Good and Substantial” clause of the current law will not be altered by the act. But, a new 16 hour handgun training course will have to be completed along with provisions of the current law.

      The new gun control legislation has sparked conversation in Hereford, and many students have their own opinions on gun control legislation. “Some people don’t deserve the right to own a gun because they will not be responsible with it,” said Helena Trifillis (12). “The problem isn’t the hunters, the problem is the people who are using their guns for violence,” said Mckenna Porter (11).

      Many students see the purpose behind the act, but question whether or not the act will accomplish its goals. “Since when have criminals legally obtained guns anyway?” said Abby Momorella (11). Mr. Joseph Bosley, Social Studies teacher, said, “Why are we taking away the constitutional rights of law abiding citizens?”

      “I think that for many people, the right to bear arms is emblematic of liberty, so they feel that the government’s impingement on that right is an impingement on liberty itself. I think the gun control thing is symbolic really. People just don’t want government regulation. They are all neo-Thoreauvians. Remember what he said: a government governs best when it governs least,” stated English teacher Mr. Jason Bowman.

      Conservative students have portrayed their frustration on Facebook, and the posts of their classmates have also sparked conversation throughout the school. “I think [what they are posting] is justified, but childish,” said Christian Parsons (12).

      Conservative Meghan Anderson (10) said, “I think most conservatives are not helping out our cause. I have conservative views; however, I do not get involved in gun control because I personally do not hunt. I only get involved because I believe in logical background checks for the safety of the people.”

      In response to the background check provision of the act, Helena said, “I think it will decrease the risk of accidents occurring.” Mr. Bosley referred to the fingerprinting aspect of the act as “wildly unconstitutional.”

      On the other hand, history teacher Mr. Peter Imhoff believes that “Marylanders should be proud of most components of the gun-control legislation recently passed by the Maryland State Senate,” and hopes that “such measures will soon be adopted by our neighboring states as well.”

      Passed in response to the Sandy Hook tragedy, legislators hope the act will improve school safety and prevent such incidents from occurring in the state of Maryland. Principal Mr. Andrew Last stated, “I am in favor of anything that will reduce the chances of a school shooting. One thing I hope that we have on our side is that the student body feels that there is an adult in the school that they can warn if they are concerned about another student’s future actions.”

      Mr. Bowman stated, “I think that when we as a nation witness a tragedy like that of Sandy Hook, we look for remedies and we look for correctives. We feel the need to act because to not do so makes us feel powerless. I guess there are two avenues that we could have taken in response to the calamity: try to take guns out of the hands of people likely to inflict senseless violence or put guns into the hands of the people in charge of protecting our children. Time will tell whether this was the correct action.”

      As Hereford’s debate of the act continues, the House of Delegate’s discussion is just beginning. The decision to pass or not pass the act into law will be made in the near future, and the Marylanders will reap the consequences. To challenge or encourage it’s passing, citizens can contact their representatives and share their opinion. The fate of gun control will soon be determined.