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Sen. Jacobs calls O'Malley gun plan 'unconscionable' [Letter]

Dear Governor O'Malley:

I am writing to share a portion of an e-mail that I received Friday, Sept. 6, stating that "the Governor and the Maryland State Police were going to be calling on five other state agencies to help do data entry to help clear up the backlog of gun applications." Each agency is "expected to do 8,000 applications over the next two days."

Within hours of my receipt of this information, word had already gotten out to the public. My office started receiving a firestorm of e-mails from very upset citizens of this state. They were extremely concerned and angry over the private information contained on their firearm application being handled by anyone other than sworn state police officers.

I did not receive official notification until 4:24 p.m. on Sept. 7, from the Maryland State Police in the form of a press release posted on the MSP web site. I was struck by the fact that the contents of the e-mail leaked out prior to the MSP press release, as were the multitude of citizens who continued to contact me throughout the weekend. Was this a situation that the neither the public, nor legislators, were to know about until after the process was completed.

I have heard from gun applicants from every walk of life. The most disturbing e-mails are from individuals with the Department of Defense who have a secret clearance and those with other types of clearances or occupations dealing with law enforcement. I want you to understand that they feel their privacy has now been breached because their information is being viewed by non-state police personnel. This places their job security clearance in jeopardy and has put their families' safety at serious risk. I feel very strongly that these individuals and their families could be severely affected by this decision which was not very well thought out.

A common cause for concern and outrage, regardless of one's occupation, was expressed by all that their signature on the firearm application authorized "the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, or any other similar agency or department of another state, to disclose to the Department of State Police information as to whether the applicant...." This COMAR, Subsection, A, (8) regulation affirms this, and is referencing the mental health aspect of the applications in order to verify the applicant's truthfulness in completing the application. The signature of the applicant only gives authorization for state agencies to disclose information to the Md. State Police. It does not allow the State Police to disclose information to OTHER agencies, which is exactly what has been done over this past weekend and today.

I also question the legality of bringing in other agencies to handle firearm applications with regards to COMAR, which state, "The State Police shall review the application for accuracy, omissions, or discrepancies before investigating the applicant." Has the law been broken here?

Governor O'Malley, this 11th hour "Hail Mary" attempt over the weekend to finally address the backlog of close to 40,000 applications is insulting to these applicants and to me. In my opinion, this situation should have been addressed months ago with far more staff hired by the MSP to insure applications for guns purchased prior to Oct. 1, 2013 were processed in a timely and LEGAL manner. The fact that this backlog was addressed this past weekend in the manner it was, is unconscionable.


Senator Nancy C. Jacobs

Maryland State Senator

Harford and Cecil counties

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