Editorial: Proposed change won't make it easier to unload stolen guns

Carroll’s Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously last week to move forward to public hearing an effort to make regulations on record-keeping less onerous for secondhand firearms dealers.

The potential amendment to recent legislation that made local regulations far more stringent than what the state requires would not affect pawnbrokers, just the secondhand firearms dealers, and it was endorsed by Sheriff Jim DeWees.


Secondhand firearms dealers are already required by Maryland to retain records of all transactions. Since September 2007, Carroll County has also required that dealers 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 DeWees’ request, the county added a requirement for secondhand dealers to uniformly record their purchases in the Regional Automated Property Information Database [RAPID] as well.

County Attorney Tim Burke said the plan had always been to revisit this added requirement and offered a couple potential amendments for commissioners to consider for a public hearing — to remove the 2015 requirement or to make an exception for secondhand firearms dealers. DeWees said he had no issues with making a change to what he asked for three years ago.

“In hindsight, it really doesn’t matter [how the information comes to us],” DeWees said on July 19, calling the current process duplicative. “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.

“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.”

Certainly, we are not in favor of anything that might allow stolen guns to slip through the cracks, but since these secondhand dealers are still doing at least what is required of the state, not much would change, process-wise, other than less paperwork. Records still must be kept. Local law enforcement remains up to speed.

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 and it could be cost-prohibitive to secondhand dealers. And Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4 said he spoke with five dealers, and they made it clear to him they are doing their best to help keep illegal firearms off the street.

“And to that end,” Rothschild 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.”

Carroll County fervently supports the right to own — and buy and sell — firearms. Given that this measure doesn’t appear to make it easier to get away with unloading stolen guns and, in fact, makes it easier for secondhand dealers to comply with the law, we expect the public hearing will produce little opposition to the amendment.

DeWees also reiterated that gun owners can help in the process in terms of recovering stolen firearms. The sheriff said that while law enforcement and secondhand dealers can be vigilant, this is a good opportunity to remind gun owners that documenting firearms 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 continued, “so between us and the dealer, we can know [if] it’s stolen or not.”