New gun laws will affect Harford small business

Dale Bowman, 71, who has owned his Darlington gun shop for nearly two decades, said Maryland's latest wave of gun control laws, set to go into effect Oct. 1, will push his normally faithful clientele to out-of-state shops. He said Maryland's stricter gun control laws may impact his businesses' economic security.

"I will be restricted from selling the guns that people want," Bowman said. "A decrease in supply will decrease sales, but people will still be able to go out of state to buy larger [gun] magazines."

Maryland's latest gun legislation is one of the most restrictive firearm laws Bowman said he has seen passed by the state's general assembly. Bowman, who has been a gun aficionado since he was 12, said the state will also be missing out on revenue from gun sales.

Bowman said the majority of his customers purchase guns for target shooting or hunting. In recent weeks, he said, his shop has seen an influx of first-time gun owners who want to buy firearms ahead of the new Maryland laws.

"It's been like a madhouse these past few weeks," Bowman said, adding his shop had nearly 200 customers in the past two weeks. He said his normal client rate is one-sixth of that.

State Sen. Barry Glassman, who represents northern Harford County, said more than 95 percent of his constituents opposed the legislature's stricter gun control laws. He said Maryland's new laws only make it harder for law-abiding citizens to obtain guns.

"The people who are breaking the law will continue to do what they always do," Glassman said. "People who break the law don't read or pay attention to the laws anyway."

Glassman said he predicts a dramatic drop in the sale of firearms in the first nine months to a year following the implementation date. He said the increase in demand for guns over the past few weeks has been reactionary as people want to avoid the pending laws.

In preparation for the laws, Bowman said he has sold the majority of the firearms he will no longer be able to sell because of the new laws, including assault-style rifles and magazines of more than 10 rounds.

"I've gotten most of my inventory down," Bowman said. "With what I have left I will have to go out of state or on the Internet to sell."

Del. Patrick L. McDonough, who represents a portion of western Harford County, said his constituents have complained that the firearm laws violate their Constitutional rights.

"My constituents are upset and angry because these laws violate their Constitutional rights," McDonough said. "And it doesn't do anything to curb gun violence."

In the last legislative session, McDonough introduced a bill, House Bill 424 Criminal Gun Control Act, which he said would "target people who use guns to commit crimes."

The bill, which did not pass in the House of Delegates, would keep gun offenders from obtaining plea bargains or early release for good behavior or time served.

"This law would have kept the most violent offenders from getting back on the street," McDonough said.

State Sen. Nancy Jacobs, who represents southern Harford County, called Maryland's latest wave of gun control laws "discriminatory in nature." Jacobs said parts of the law, which would require prospective gun owners to take a shooting test, discriminate against people who live in urban areas without public gun ranges.

"If you don't own a car, but have to go take the shooting test — well you can't take a gun on public transportation," Jacobs said. "How can a person who lives in a gang area in a urban area, who wants to defend themself, even obtain a gun?"

But Harford County Executive David R. Craig said the only remedy to ending gun violence is "good leadership." Craig, an announced candidate for governor, said Harford has been able to become the second safest area in the state by having a good law enforcement agency, state's attorney's office and correctional facility.

"People who think this is a way to deal with gun violence don't realize, this isn't a gun issue; it's a violence issue," Craig said.

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