UJW Staff Writer
ROCKVILLE, MD -Polls show that public support for tighter gun control has increased after the Newtown shooting in December. Since then, four states, including Maryland, have passed sweeping gun control legislation in response.
Maryland’s new bill, the Firearm Safety Act, which will not go in effect until October 1, is considered one of the strictest in the nation. It will ban many types of assault weapons, restrict the mentally ill from purchasing guns, and require all gun purchasers to submit fingerprints to the state police. Owners of now-banned assault weapons will be allowed to keep their guns.
The bill granted $25 million to the school construction program. Governor Martin O’Malley’s press secretary Takirra Winfield said it will be used to improve school safety, which will include ID scanners and locks.
“The bill is a comprehensive approach to address gun safety and violence prevention. The governor just wanted common sense licensing so guns don’t end up in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them,” Winfield said.
Elizabeth Zipf, a junior at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, does not support the new bill because she believes it violates the Second Amendment and leaves Maryland residents with limited capacity to defend themselves.
“Hard as it is to acknowledge, people are going to die because of guns. Legislation won’t stop that. Better identification of mental health problems might. Better societal awareness might,” Zipf said.
In Montgomery County, there were more than 58,000 reported crimes last year, according to the County Police Department website. However, there is no data specifying how many crimes involved guns.
Six students in neighboring Prince George’s County have been killed as a result of gun violence as of the end of April. Last year, there were 28,148 total crimes in the county, according to the County Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention.
However, the majority of Americans support background checks, the ban of selling assault weapons, and a new federal database to track all gun sales, according to an April ABC-Washington Post poll. Ninety-one percent of those polled support background checks and 82 percent support making illegal gun sales a federal crime, the poll showed.
In the first four months after the Sandy Hook shooting, there were more than 2,200 gun deaths in the United States, according to the Huffington Post. President Obama declared his support for tightened gun control, and mourned the losses in Newtown and other gun violence deaths.
Despite this, every gun control proposal failed in the US Senate in mid-April. The proposed bipartisan compromise for gun control included expanding background checks for gun purchasers and banning assault weapons.
However, other states support gun rights and are passing new laws that contrast Maryland’s. A new bill passed in Kansas in early April will permit selected school employees to carry concealed guns, according to the Wichita Eagle newspaper. Additionally, lawmakers in South Carolina hope to pass a bill that will create a gun-training class for high school students.
Opponents argue that the Maryland bill violates the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. Recently, a video of 15-year-old Marylander Sarah Merckle went viral, after she delivered a pro-gun speech to the Maryland State Legislature. As of April 26, her speech had more than 3 million views on YouTube.
“Purging our society of violence and murder cannot be done through gun control legislation,” Merckle said. “By signing this legislation, you are not signing away gun violence, but instead liberating American citizens of our constitutional rights.”