An analysis of federal gun trace data shows that while Maryland has some of the most stringent gun laws in the country, illegal weapons are imported here at one of the highest rates of any state.
The report, released last week by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition of nearly 600 mayors, shows that states with weak gun laws disproportionately supply guns recovered in out-of-state crimes, and argues for strengthening enforcement and closing gaps in state and federal laws.
Using previously unavailable data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the report shows that Maryland is a "net importer" of guns used in crimes, exporting one for every 2.5 that are brought here from elsewhere. The 1,707 guns used in Maryland crimes in 2009 that came from out of state is ninth-highest in the country.
The state is sandwiched between two of the highest gun exporters in the country — Virginia and Pennsylvania — as well as West Virginia, the second-highest per capita exporter of weapons used in crimes.
The report concludes that the 10 worst offenders per capita, led by Mississippi, West Virginia and Kentucky, supplied nearly half the 43,000 guns traced to crime scenes in other states last year.
"With the release of this report, multi-year trends in trace data confirm that the illegal market for guns is driven, in part, by weak gun laws," said Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, a co-chair of the task force of mayors. "It's a wake-up call to state legislators and Washington to close gaps in the laws that give criminals easy access to guns."
Forty-two percent of guns used in crime in Maryland came from out of state, higher than the national average of about 30 percent. But that also means that despite its tough gun laws, more than half the guns used to commit crimes in Maryland still come from in-state.
New census and FBI crime data show that while Maryland is the richest state in the country, it remains one of the most violent. And 80 percent of the 238 people murdered in Baltimore last year were killed by handguns.
Allan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, a gun rights group that is challenging weapons laws in Maryland, said the proliferation of out-of-state weapons is partly the result of Maryland's gun restrictions forcing law-abiding citizens to go elsewhere.
"It's just a way of exploiting the issue," Gottlieb said of the mayors' report. "When you have very restrictive gun laws, people who want to defend themselves will find a means to do it another way, like buying out of state."
In analyzing gun restrictions in all 50 states in areas such as background checks for gun purchases, policies on concealed weapons permits and state inspections of gun dealers, the report finds that Maryland has some of the strictest gun laws. The state lacks only two of the 10 laws that the group says are key to curbing illegal gun trafficking: It does not require reporting lost or stolen guns to law enforcement, nor does it allow local communities to enact gun laws.
The top suppliers of guns recovered in Maryland crimes were Virginia (437), Pennsylvania (207), North Carolina (150) and West Virginia (147). Virginia and West Virginia were determined to be two of the worst per-capita exporters of guns used in crimes.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake signed on to the Mayors Against Illegal Guns group shortly after taking office, and has pushed for tighter gun laws on the state and federal level. She recently sent a letter to U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin expressing opposition to a bill that she says would strip the ATF of its regulatory enforcement powers.
"I continue to be troubled by how easy it is for criminals to gain access to guns that are used to kill innocent people in the City and other jurisdictions in Maryland," she wrote.