Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and Police Chief Jim Johnson on Monday called on state and federal lawmakers to strengthen laws on background checks for gun buyers and stop the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in the wake of the Connecticut school mass shooting that left 28 dead.
"This is not the time to be timid," Kamenetz said at a news conference, reading from an open letter he wrote to Maryland's state and federal elected officials. "We cannot sit by and do nothing."
Kamenetz and Johnson said law-abiding gun owners should not fear a public discussion on strengthening gun laws. They called on lawmakers to stop allowing exceptions to national background checks for those buying firearms and to stop the sale of assault weapons and of high-capacity magazines of more than 10 rounds.
"The people of Baltimore County and the people all across the nation should not have access to the weapons of war," Kamenetz wrote. "An assault rifle used to battle the Taliban has no place in Towson, Dundalk or Catonsville."
Johnson – who is chairman of the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence – called gun violence "a public health epidemic." He also called mental health services a key component in cutting violence and urged parents of emotionally disturbed children to seek professional help.
"There's a point in time where the family needs to reach out to the professionals," Johnson said. "As a community, let's help you."
Baltimore County was shaken as the school year began with several gun incidents, including a shooting on the first day of the school year that left a 17-year-old critically injured at Perry Hall High, and an incident in which a Stemmers Run Middle student allegedly threatened his teachers and classmates with a gun.
The county executive said he has asked the police chief and Baltimore County Public Schools Superintendent S. Dallas Dance to review police security procedures in county schools and to report back to him with specific recommendations within the next few months.
Kamenetz and Johnson also urged gun owners to properly secure their weapons.
"To all owners of firearms, know that in Baltimore County we will aggressively arrest and prosecute those who fail to properly secure their weapons in their own homes," Kamenetz said, reading from his letter to lawmakers.
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