2021 Maryland General Assembly Legislative Priorities
Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence (MPGV) continues its commitment to advancing evidence-based policies to reduce gun violence in Maryland by strengthening Maryland’s background check and licensing system, and defending the integrity of Maryland’s firearm laws. During the 2021 session, MPGV will introduce and support bills that address loopholes in current law, improve enforcement of existing laws, and defend against legislation that seeks to weaken Maryland’s current gun laws.
Violence Intervention and Prevention (SB 708/ HB 822) – Veto Override
Prior to the abrupt shut down of the 2020 Maryland General Assembly (MGA) due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were able to pass the Violence Intervention and Prevention Bill (VIPP). This bill, sponsored by Senator Jill Carter and Delegate Brooke Lierman, will require the Governor to provide funding to VIPP programs previously authorized by the legislature. In 2018, Delegate Lierman and Senator Joan Carter-Conway passed legislation that designated funding to counties and municipalities such as Baltimore City, for evidence-based programs to reduce interpersonal gun homicide. This included funding for Ceasefire and Cure Violence models involving group violence intervention, violence interrupters, and hospital-based intervention programs. Effective violence prevention requires a sustained approach over time but unfortunately, these programs have not been provided with the legislature’s intended funding since the authority to provide that funding lies with the Governor. These programs aim to go beyond traditional law enforcement practices and prevent violence before it happens. This new bill would ensure that funding is properly allocated to VIPP programs. Members of the MGA will not only reaffirm their commitment to violence prevention and intervention, but will also ensure that critical efforts across the state receive much needed state-level support by overriding the Governor’s veto. Communities across Maryland continue to suffer from underinvestment in strategies that are proven to be effective at reducing violence and promoting healing. This legislation is a critical step in moving Maryland forward and legislators must vote to override the veto. Update: As of this publication, the Senate has acted swiftly and passed the override vote. A House vote is anticipated within the next few weeks.
MPGV’s PRIORITY BILLS
Jaelynn’s Law/ Child Access Prevention and Safe Storage (HB 200):
This bill, sponsored by State Senator Will Smith and Delegates Dana Stein and Sandy Bartlett, will strengthen safe storage requirements for gun owners for the purpose of reducing child access to firearms. Unsecured firearms increase the risk of unintentional shootings, homicide, and suicide. In addition to requiring that guns are securely stored and unloaded if a minor could gain access, the bill increases the age of unsupervised firearm possession to 18 years of age. It also provides for a graduated system of penalties commensurate with the harm caused by a failure to securely store a weapon. In short, this bill will strengthen gun owners’ accountability and responsibility for the safe storage of firearms.
This bill, sponsored by State Senator Susan Lee and Delegate Lesley Lopez, addresses the growing problem of unserialized kit guns thwarting Maryland’s strong gun laws. Unserialized kit guns are a version of ghost guns and it has become evident in recent years that they are allowing prohibited purchasers to circumvent Maryland’s background check requirements. This legislation would require that a purchaser of the key portion of a firearm kit, the unfinished receiver, be subject to the same standards as that of a firearm purchaser, to wit, they must possess a valid handgun qualification license. Thus, a person who is otherwise prohibited from purchasing a firearm would not be allowed to circumvent Maryland’s gun laws by making the firearm
themself. In addition, the legislation would improve the ability to trace kit guns used in crimes by establishing a procedure and requirement for the serialization of the unfinished receiver.
MPGV recognizes the important role that education policies, our schools, and educators play in both preventing gun violence and responding to gun violence. One of our core programs at MPGV is the Liberty Elementary Grief Support Program. This community lead approach pairs children who have Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) with individuals from their communities trained in grief support. The children attend weekly “lunch bunch” groups with these adults and are generally supported throughout the year as need arises. MPGV will advocate for education policies that seek to address equity, education funding, school construction funding, school security, and improved education and economic opportunities for students, particularly those who live in communities disproportionately affected by daily gun violence. This Session, we are working with Delegate Pam Queen on legislation to establish a screening process so that all children entering Maryland public schools would be assessed for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Early identification of children with high ACE scores helps secure them with the support and resources they need. Children with high ACE scores who do not receive therapeutic intervention are much likelier to become victims of or engage in violence and die at significantly younger ages than their peers.
MPGV believes that unjustified use of force of any form is unacceptable. Law Enforcement Officers play an important role in ensuring the safety of our communities. MPGV is proud to work alongside members of The Maryland State Police, Baltimore Police Department and county police departments to protect and ensure the safety of all. We also believe in the importance of speaking out when anyone, law enforcement or the general public, acts in a way that threatens a community’s safety. We stand with advocates who call upon all of us to fight for ways to ensure that no one is shot without justification by a law enforcement official. This protects not only community members but also the law enforcement officials who work in earnest to protect us all.
Local Youth Violence Review (HB93/SB406)
This legislation would allow counties to establish local youth violence review committees to prevent violence and homicides involving youth assailants and youth victims by promoting cooperation among agencies, providing youth services, determining the causes of youth violence, and recommending changes. In addition to the potential to address individual cases in the best way possible, such committees can help to inform and instruct efforts at violence prevention from a community and resources standpoint. At MPGV we seek to always allow our work to be informed by the best information available and this kind of information gathering and dissemination is critical.
Attempts to Repeal the Firearm Safety Act of 2013
A number of bills have been proposed that would repeal key provisions of the landmark Firearm Safety Act of 2013 (FSA). Maryland was one of the few states that was able to pass substantive legislation after the Sandy Hook School shooting. Every year, bills are introduced to eliminate training certification requirements, legalize assault weapons, and generally weaken Maryland’s existing law. MPGV is dedicated to protecting the strong standards set forth by the 2013 legislation and opposes any bills that undermine current law.
Concealed Carry Expansion/Shall Carry (HB 538, SB27, SB221)
Each year, legislation is introduced in Maryland to make it a “shall carry” state and remove concealed carry permit requirements such as the “good and substantial reason” standard. Other bills aim to remove requirements for training, create exemptions to the permitting requirements, establish concealed carry reciprocity, or allow for expedited permits under certain circumstances. MPGV opposes all legislation that seeks to weaken Maryland’s current concealed carry standards.
Guns in Schools
MPGV opposes all legislation authorizing funding for arming school personnel, or granting permission to county school boards to authorize school personnel to carry a firearm on school property under any circumstances.
Guns and Cannabis (SB190/HB415)
Under federal law cannabis is designated as a controlled substance and a user is prohibited from owning a firearm. In addition, the data seems to indicate that marijuana use, even medical varieties may cause impairment to the user. This is an area that likely deserves significant scientific research, but MPGV feels strongly that the default should not be to allow cannabis users to possess dangerous weapons. We will oppose this legislation.