Maryland already has plenty of gun control laws on the books, including a ban on so-called assault weapons, universal background checks, a magazine ban, a red flag law, and a waiting period for purchases of handguns and modern sporting rifles. Anti-gun politicians in Annapolis think they’ve found one more law that should be on the books, however; a new gun storage requirement that would criminalize those who don’t keep their guns under lock and key.
According to supporters of the new legislation, the bill is meant to prevent juveniles from unlawfully getting ahold of a gun, but the language of the bill would have unintended consequences for many parents who own firearms.
Maryland law currently prohibits a person from leaving or storing a loaded firearm in a location where they knew or should have known that an unsupervised child under the age of 16 would gain access to it, according to a state legislative analysis.
Violators are subject to a misdemeanor and a maximum fine of $1000.
However, this piece of legislation would repeal that prohibition extending the policy to anyone under the age of 18.
“It’s a duty that we have to make sure our kids are safe,” [Del. J. Sandy] Bartlett told Capital News Service.
It also would increase the punishment to a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence up to 90 days in prison and or a maximum fine of $1,000, according to a state legislative analysis.
The bill also establishes additional sanctions depending on whether the minor successfully gains access to the firearm.
In that case, the violator would be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a prison sentence of up to two years or a maximum fine of $2,500.
In the event that someone younger than 18 gains access to a firearm and inflicts damage on themselves or someone else, the prison sentence increases up to three years and a maximum fine of $5,000.
While the bill is ostensibly designed to prevent juveniles from getting ahold of a gun and committing a crime with it, the legislation would also block parents from allowing their children under the age of 18 access to a firearm to use in self-defense. In fact, as written, if a 16-year old girl used her mom’s handgun to shoot an intruder, mom could be looking at three years in prison as a result.
I’m all in favor of gun owners storing their firearms in a way to prevent unauthorized access, but this bill (and frankly, the current law in Maryland) applies a one-size-fits-all standard that doesn’t recognize the fact that many parents have taught their kids to be safe and responsible with firearms. If they trust their own children, and want them to have access to a firearm for self-defense if they’re alone in the house, they should have the right to make that decision without the state trying to turn them into a felon for doing so.
The Maryland measure may be well-intended, but it’s still a step in the wrong direction. For now, at least, the bill appears to be bottled up in committee, but only because Democrats have higher priorities at the moment. Gun owners in Maryland should be talking with their delegates and state senators about the flaws in the bill and encouraging them to vote “no” on the legislation if it reaches the floor of the state House or Senate.