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Incoming Harford sheriff plans to challenge state gun control, review Sheriff's Office staffing

Harford Sheriff-elect Jeff Gahler prepares his transition looking toward a Dec. 1 swearing in after defeating Sheriff Jesse Bane in Tuesday's general election.
Harford Sheriff-elect Jeff Gahler prepares his transition looking toward a Dec. 1 swearing in after defeating Sheriff Jesse Bane in Tuesday's general election. (Aegis staff photo by Matt Button, The Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Jeff Gahler, the Harford County Sheriff-elect, plans to not only conduct a "bottom-to-the-top" assessment of the Harford County Sheriff's Office when he takes office Dec. 1, but also work with allies on the state level to repeal strict gun control legislation passed by the Maryland General Assembly and signed by Gov. Martin O'Malley in 2013.

"I want to sit down and work on some common-sense and practical legislation," he said Wednesday, one day after he defeated two-term incumbent Sheriff Jesse Bane.

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Gahler, a Republican and retired Maryland State Police captain, beat the Democratic Bane 48,688 votes to 37,697 votes, according to unofficial results posted on the Harford County Board of Elections website.

Gahler took 56.3 percent of the vote, compared to Bane's 43.59 percent; there were also 95 write-in votes, or .11 percent.

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The full results of local and statewide races will be known once all absentee and provisional ballots are counted by Nov. 14.

Gahler said he wants to work with Harford County's majority-Republican legislative delegation to repeal the Maryland Firearm Safety Act of 2013 and develop methods of keeping guns out of the hands of criminals while ensuring law-abiding residents can purchase firearms.

The bill passed in Annapolis, despite all members of the Harford County delegation voting against it in 2013, including the lone Democrat, Del. Mary-Dulany James, who was defeated in her bid for state senator this year by Republican Bob Cassilly.

Gahler noted Gov.-elect Larry Hogan, a Republican, does not plan to repeal the law, which Hogan has said in various media interviews.

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Gahler described Maryland as "not a friendly state when it comes to gun-friendly legislation."

"It doesn't mean we don't go down there and push for common sense legislation," he said.

A more immediate measure Gahler has planned for when he takes office is to return Michael Capasso, the former warden of the Harford County Detention Center, to the post he retired from in 2012.

Capasso was a major when he retired from the Sheriff's Office.

"He has the extensive experience in corrections that I promised the citizens of Harford County," Gahler explained.

He said he has not made any other firm decisions about other members of the command staff, but said "there will be some changes coming."

"Staffing is never an easy issue," he said. "I'm committed to improving staffing, both on patrol and in the detention center. That's not something you can solve overnight."

Gahler said he plans to begin his promised assessment of staffing at the Sheriff's Office once he is sworn in next month.

"[We'll] look at every position, from the bottom to the top, and see if there is a possibility to push more deputes out on patrol, back into our community," the sheriff-elect said.

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