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Tougher gun laws are helping reduce homicides in Baltimore [Letter]

The Sun's recent front-page story about the substantial drop in gun homicides in Baltimore over the past few months is good news for all of us ("After an uptick, Baltimore homicides return to trend of decline," July 1).

In fact, statewide in Maryland, gun deaths have gone down 24 percent between in the first five months of 2014 compared to the same period last year.

We at Marylanders To Prevent Gun Violence commend the Baltimore City Police Department for the effective new policing policies described in the article, which surely contributed to this decline in gun deaths.

We also believe that the Firearms Safety Act of 2013 played an important part in this progress, particularly its key provision requiring prospective handgun purchasers to first obtain a fingerprint-based license to purchase from the state police.

According to Professor Daniel Webster of the Johns Hopkins Center on Gun Policy and Research, handgun purchaser licensing laws in other states have worked well to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. As a result, states with such laws tend to have lower firearms-related death rates than states without such laws.

According to research done by Mr. Webster, when one state, Missouri, repealed its handgun purchaser licensing law in 2007, firearm-related homicide rates in the state abruptly increased while remaining stable in neighboring states and nationally.

Clearly, our job is not done. Even one innocent life lost to gun violence is too many. Even as we make It more difficult for criminals to acquire guns in Maryland, we'll still be vulnerable to criminals acquiring guns in other states.

In New York City, for example, which has one of the lowest gun violence rates in the nation and where fingerprint licensing of handgun purchasers has been in effect for decades, 90 percent of the guns used in crime come from out of state.

So we must do all we can to educate the public, lawmakers in other states and members of Congress about how important handgun purchaser licensing is to prevent gun violence.

Vincent DeMarco, Baltimore

The writer is president of Marylanders To Prevent Gun Violence.

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To respond to this letter, send an email to talkback@baltimoresun.com. Please include your name and contact information.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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