Carroll commissioners consider relaxing reporting requirements for secondhand gun dealers

Carroll County’s commissioners are undertaking an effort to make regulations relating to record-keeping less stringent for secondhand firearm dealers.

Secondhand firearms dealers are already required by the state to retain records of all transactions. But since September 2007, Carroll County has also required dealers to send all purchase records to local law enforcement by 10 a.m. the following day to check for stolen property. Pawnbrokers and other secondhand dealers are also subject to this requirement.


In 2015, at Sheriff Jim DeWees’ request, the county added a requirement for secondhand dealers to uniformly record their purchases in the Regional Automated Property Database, or RAPID, as well.

“You fairly recently heard from some of the affected secondhand dealers,” County Attorney Tim Burke said to commissioners this week, “and you asked to revisit it.”

To address their concerns, Burke offered a couple of potential amendments for commissioners to consider for a public hearing — to remove the 2015 requirement or to make an exception for secondhand firearms dealers.

Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, said after a conference call earlier in the week with DeWees and five Carroll County secondhand firearms dealers that he could speak on behalf of what both parties wanted to see change.

“First, the dealers made it very clear that they want to cooperate with law enforcement,” Rothschild said Thursday. “They want to have these records available. They also want to be able to — to the best of their ability — help the sheriff and our local law enforcement officials get illegal firearms off the street.

“And to that end,” he said, “we’ve all agreed it’s better for a dealer to be able to get a hold of a stolen firearm than to have an issue where the record-keeping is so oppressive and whatnot that it just fuels the black market.”

Rothschild said DeWees and the firearms dealers support changing the regulation from one that requires all data to be sent through RAPID, to one where records are kept in whatever manner the business prefers for three years and are available to law enforcement upon request.

“In hindsight, it really doesn’t matter [how the information comes to us],” DeWees said Thursday. “It’s kind of a duplicative kind of thing for them. We really are able to get the information that we need to determine whether a firearm is stolen or not through the very few [dealers] that are doing this in the county.

“We’ve been able to work very well with them for the past few years,” he said. “So my office is perfectly fine with the amendment and taking out [secondhand] firearms [dealers from the requirement], because we have and continue to work very well with the secondhand dealers.”

But because precious metals and jewelry are stolen more often and are more difficult to identify — they don’t have serial numbers and might not have distinguishing features — pawnbrokers and other secondhand dealers would still be required to use RAPID under the change for any purchases they make.

In addition to cooperation between secondhand firearms dealers and law enforcement, Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, said he found that requiring the use of RAPID is not standard across surrounding counties such as Baltimore and Washington.

Most of the dealers he had looked into “didn’t know what the RAPID system is,” he said, “and they maintained their own ledger by state requirements without any problem whatsoever.”

Weaver also said he didn’t want to impose extra hardships on the dealers, who he said are trying to do the right thing and comply with regulations without the added cost of getting into RAPID — dealers like local gun shop owner Bradley Vosburgh of Brownstone Trading Company, who didn’t even have a computer at first.

Vosburgh said Thursday he never switched over to the RAPID system and has been faxing information from the shop’s gun purchases daily for the past two years.


“They wanted us to go on the RAPID system before and we didn’t have a computer working,” Vosburgh said. “Now we do, we still don't want to.”

He said changing the requirement would just make it so that Brownstone Trading wouldn’t be sending all the information over immediately — only as requested by the Sheriff’s Office.

“We want criminals to get caught,” Vosburgh said. “We don't want people stealing guns and stuff. We are all for catching them.”

Rothschild echoed that sentiment at the meeting.

“The dealers would like to help law enforcement get illegal firearms off the street,” Rothschild said, “but the problem, we require the transmission of all records.”

Rothschild said sellers might be inclined to conduct business elsewhere to avoid their information going straight to the police after a gun sale.

“So they felt this is the best of both worlds,” he said. “It will continue to maintain the spirit of the law, requiring them to maintain records; records will continue to be available to the Sheriff’s Office upon request for inspection. However, they may at their own initiative choose to electronically transmit the data electronically or via fax.”

The sheriff also said this week that although law enforcement and secondhand dealers can be vigilant, now is as good a time as ever to remind the general public that documenting guns also makes it easier to find them if they are stolen.

“What we find specifically with shotguns, hunting rifles, stuff like that,” DeWees said, “ is people don't necessarily document the serial numbers from their weapons. So if they are stolen, sometimes it can become difficult.

“If you don't want to document it, put some kind of identifying mark on it that only you can notice,” he said, “so between us and the dealer, we can know [if] it’s stolen or not.”

The language agreed upon by commissioners, the Sheriff’s Office and Carroll’s secondhand firearms dealers aligned closely with Burke’s proposed amendments, so commissioners voted 5-0 to bring the change to a public hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.