Imagine being a Marylander who is facing imminent bodily harm or being threatened by an abusive ex-spouse and then being told you need to wait 30 days to obtain a firearm to protect yourself and your family. Also imagine having your constitutional rights denied for 30 days because of a broken government computer system.
This is exactly what some Maryland Democrats are proposing.
State Sen. Will Smith and Montgomery County Council Member Tom Hucker have recently called for a 30-day wait period to purchase legal firearms. We are members of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and we work with our chairman, Sen. Smith, to find common ground when possible, but on this issue we strongly disagree.
This issue came to a head when Marylandís Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) computer system crashed due to hardware failures and Maryland retailers were locked out of the Stateís background check system to sell firearms.
The State of Maryland failed and couldnít fulfill its duty, meaning that Marylanders were deprived of the ability to access their Second Amendment Right.
Firearm retailers are required by federal and state law to conduct a background check on every firearm sold. That includes running each buyerís personal information through a series of databases, including the FBIs National Instant Criminal Background Check System and Marylandís state databases administered by the DPSCS. In addition, all regulated firearm transfers, including handguns in Maryland are subject to a seven-day waiting period.
Marylandís DPSCS was offline for three days. During that time, 54 firearm transfers were allowed to proceed under the law. Of those 54 guns, none were flagged for retrieval. The firearm retailers that sold the guns, the state police, and the FBI knew exactly who had the guns. The state police and the FBI knew exactly who had the guns and all the individuals passed a federal background check.
Instead of creating a 30-day wait period to purchase a firearm, we should fix Marylandís background system so it functions correctly. Letís keep guns out of the hands of bad people, but ensure that law-abiding citizens can obtain firearms. Making law-abiding citizens wait 30 days to purchase a handgun is completely unreasonable. This would be government overreach and overcorrection at its worst. A government unable to maintain a computer database would then turn around and punish citizens by denying them their right to self-defense for 30 days.
The sad, documented truth is the vast majority of criminals purchase their guns on the streets illegally where there is no waiting period, no background check, and no handgun qualification license.
Despite Maryland passing some the strictest gun control laws in the nation in 2013, gun homicide rates continually climb. Gun control in Maryland has been a miserable failure, yet every year lawmakers and special interest continue to punish law-abiding Marylanders with ideas like 30-day wait periods. All the while, our state has failed to pass meaningful legislation to hold criminals who use illegally obtained firearms accountable.
The City of Baltimore is experiencing record numbers of homicides and currently is on pace to surpass 2019′s deadly record of 348 murders. The heinous violence in Baltimore has recently claimed the life of a woman who was eight months pregnant as well as her 3-year old daughter. During committee hearings, police have testified that they almost never see legally obtained firearms used in deadly crimes like these.
Writing more laws that take away the Constitutional rights of our fellow Marylanders isnít the way to keep us safe. Instead, we should focus on fixing the tangled background check system to safeguard citizensí rights and hold criminals accountable.
Michael Hough is a state senator representing District 4.
Justin Ready is a state senator representing District 5.