During the past two weeks, members of the Maryland General Assembly have begun consideration of two important pieces of legislation. Governor Martin O'Malley has proposed comprehensive gun control legislation, in response to recent episodes of gun violence across our nation. Additionally, he has also put his full support behind efforts to repeal Maryland's death penalty statutes.
Each of these public safety topics has elicited a vocal response from advocates on both sides of these controversial issues. As communities like Sandy Hook, CT, Aurora, CO and even Perry Hall have faced gun violence of varying degrees of severity, citizens have begun to question their safety. Perhaps the most essential role of government is to provide adequate measures to ensure public safety. Thus, it is entirely appropriate that our elected officials conduct a thoughtful, open, and extensive assessment of any concepts that could potentially improve our domestic security.
- The legislation would require a license and a criminal background check to purchase a gun (other than hunting rifles).
- It would require gun safety training for gun buyers.
- The legislation bans the sale of military-style assault weapons.
- These bills propose a 10-round limit on the size of high capacity magazines.
- The legislation also strengthens state law relating to restrictions on gun possession by mentally ill individuals.
The provisions of this legislation do not in any way negatively impair the rights of law-abiding citizens to purchase and own firearms. Reasonable people will still be able to own reasonable weapons, after completing a reasonable administrative process. Certainly, the entire package of proposals may not please everyone on all sides of the debate. Some feel the legislation goes too far, while others would prefer additional restraints on gun ownership. In any event, given the surge in violent gun confrontations we have seen of late, we must all agree that something must be done, and done right now.
With regard to the notion of repealing the death penalty, I personally do not believe that this represents a step in the right direction. While I think the death penalty should not be used often, I do feel that certain crimes are so heinous as to justify this ultimate punishment. Mass violence culminating in the deaths of innocent people cannot be tolerated. Moreover, society must have some assurance that the criminals who commit such horrific acts will never walk the streets again, and conceivably be able to perpetrate new crimes.
Regardless of your position on these two distinct proposals, it is clear that issues of public safety warrant a serious discussion. There is no way to be certain that anything being considered at the present would guarantee our safety. Unfortunately, given the nature of life itself, we are never guaranteed complete safety. However, we must always seek out a clearer path to protecting society from dangerous individuals and the tools they might use to harm others.