Summer Savings! Get unlimited digital access for 13 weeks for $13.
Readers Respond
News Opinion Readers Respond

Maryland needs tougher laws on gun access

The horrific tragedy in Connecticut has triggered a justifiable groundswell of support for a ban on semi-automatic weapons. I fully agree with such a ban. As a state senator, I was the chief sponsor and floor leader of the ban on semi-automatic pistols in 1992. That legislation named 23 specific weapons. The gun industry has renamed and refitted semi-automatic weapons to circumvent this law and similar laws in other states.

 Legislators in Maryland appear to be on the verge of enacting a ban that would capture all semi-automatic weapons. They should do so swiftly. However, the ban would fail to directly address what occurred at Perry Hall High School and the horrible incident in Newtown, Conn. The state must punish adults who store or leave such weapons within the reach of minors or adults with a diagnosed mental disability or propensity for violence.

 Maryland has a statute that punishes an adult who stores or leaves a firearm in a location where the adult knew or should have known the minor could gain access to it. I was the chief sponsor and floor leader of that bill as well.

 

It's difficult to believe, but the gun lobby was strongly opposed to the "access" legislation and was able to weaken the bill to appease the committee chairman who was also opposed to the bill. In order to get the bill out of committee, amendments were adopted that took much of the strength out of the legislation. The existing treats the offense as a misdemeanor and includes a fine no more severe than a $500 fine.

 The current law is ineffective to deal with today's environment. Legislation needs to be introduced that would bifurcate the statute to add a more serious second degree offense.

 Under a second degree offense, an adult would violate the proposed law if he or she stored or left the firearm in a location where the adult knew or should have known that the minor or adult with a mental disability or a known propensity for violence could have gained access to the firearm and used the firearm to kill or cause serious physical injury.

An individual convicted of a second degree offense would be subject to up five years in prison and guilty of a felony. The circumstances would be evaluated by a prosecutor's office. The facts would be determined by a jury and sentence delivered by a judge.

 People lock up gold coins, stock and bond certificates, and cash. They should lock up dangerous firearms too. These weapons are meant to indiscriminately spray deadly bullets. They're tailor-made for death and have no legitimate sporting or hunting value. The individual who leaves a semi-automatic weapon within access of a minor or mentally impaired individual should bear responsibility for any injury or death caused by the person who gains access to the weapon.

John A. Pica Jr., Baltimore

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • Another mass shooting, and who's responsible?

    Another mass shooting, and who's responsible?

    I am a cinema buff, and I went to the Charles Theatre recently to see a wonderful film. While there I realized that another mentally ill person decided to vent his furies in a movie theater. This time in Lafayette, La. ("La. shooter a drifter with 'hate in his heart,'" July 25). This is the USA,...

  • Fix the background check

    Fix the background check

    As inspiring and overdue as America's reassessment of the Confederate battle flag has been since last month's Charleston shootings, those who wish to truly honor the victims need to set their sights to an even higher purpose. Late last week, FBI director James Comey acknowledged that alleged shooter...

  • License gun purchases

    License gun purchases

    Thanks to Rep. Donna Edwards for her eloquent op-ed on the need to do more to prevent gun violence ("Dealing with guns demands more than another moment of silence," July 7).

  • NRA selectively interprets 2nd Amendment

    NRA selectively interprets 2nd Amendment

    As sure as nine people have been butchered by yet another gun-wielding maniac, there will be an outcry for more laws controlling the sale and registration of firearms, and the NRA will again claim they are heroically upholding the Second Amendment rights of every American citizen by opposing such...

  • Do concealed guns reduce crime? Let's find out

    Do concealed guns reduce crime? Let's find out

    Despite expert opinions, statistics and moral condemnations, the debate on gun control continues. Until the law permits everyone who wants to carry a concealed weapon to do so legally, there is insufficient data to decide for or against ("How to reduce gun violence," June 12).

  • How to reduce gun violence

    How to reduce gun violence

    At a time when Baltimore could desperately use some good news when it comes to the prospects of reducing violence, research from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health suggests we may already have taken a key step toward preventing gun homicides — it just may take a few years for us...

  • NRA's paranoia is catching

    NRA's paranoia is catching

    The Sun's editorial reflecting on the National Rifle Association convention in Nashville is an important statement on how the NRA has devalued our lives and our society ("Guns and the 'permanent darkness,'" April 16).

  • Guns and the 'permanent darkness'

    Guns and the 'permanent darkness'

    By overwhelming margins, polls show Americans support universal background checks for those seeking to purchase a firearm to help keep guns out of the hands of criminals and those who are dangerously mentally ill. Clearly, the last thing you want is for some paranoid personality, ranting and raving...

Comments
Loading
88°