The mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida that killed 17 people last week has brought new attention to state bills on gun control and school security as legislators and citizens alike look for answers after a recent wave of horrific mass shootings.
The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, where a former student walked into the school and killed 17 people with an AR-15 style assault rifle, is the latest mass shooting in the past year which has prompted law makers in the state to introduce a series of gun control measures.
“Until our national government, Congress and the president make some reforms that affect all states, we can have the strongest laws on the book, people still can get guns legally because there are states with other laws,” said Del. Kathleen Dumais (D-15).
Among Maryland Democrats, a priority continues to be the banning of bump stocks, which allow semi-automatic rifles to be fired as rapidly as fully automatic ones, and were used in last year’s Las Vegas mass shooting which took the lives of 58 people. But even though a state bill to ban bump stocks has stalled, the federal effort begun after the Las Vegas shooting was given new life Tuesday when President Donald Trump (R) announced that he had instructed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to promulgate new regulations to ban the devices.
“Today, I am directing the Department of Justice to dedicate all available resources to complete the review of the comments received, and, as expeditiously as possible, to propose for notice and comment a rule banning all devices that turn legal weapons into machine guns,” Trump said in a memorandum to the Attorney General.
Legislation to ban bump stocks also has bipartisan support in Congress, with 14 Democrats – including Rep. John Delaney (D6th District) and 13 Republicans putting their weight behind the bill.
Much of the emphasis on what do from gun control advocates has been to push to ban “assault weapons” with military-style features, particularly the AR-15, the model of semi-automatic rifle used in many mass shooting. While Congress passed an assault weapons ban as part of the 1994 crime bill signed by then-President Bill Clinton, it expired in 2004. A Maryland law to prohibit such weapons – the Firearms Safety Act of 2013 was passed and signed into law by then-Governor Martin O’- Malley in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. The law requires people to submit fingerprints before they buy a handgun, limit magazine capacity to 10 rounds and bans certain attachments that are used for semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines such as folding stocks and pistol grips.
Even with some of the nation’s strictest gun laws, Dumais, who was a co-sponsor of the Firearms Safety Act, said she still worries that a mass shooting like one in Florida last week could happen in Maryland.
On March 6, the House of Delegates Judiciary Committee will have their “gun day” – a day reserved exclusively for public hearings on 37 gun bills proposed by Democrats and Republicans alike. While Democrats have looked to place more restrictions on firearm purchase in the state, Republican laws makers have sought to make guns more accessible as a solution to mass shootings.
Del. Rick Impallaria (R-7), who represents Baltimore and Harford counties, said he thinks his bill that would allow school districts within the state to issue permits to carry guns on school campuses to school employees is one solution America’s recent mass shooting.
“There's prevention and there's deterrence -- I think it creates a greater deterrent and I think it can bring it [school shootings] to an end faster,” he said of his bill.
While Impallaria introduced his bill at the beginning of the session, long before the Florida shooting, he said he was contacted shortly after the shooting by Faster Saves Lives, a nonprofit that trains teachers and other school with firearms to stop mass shooters, which pledged support for his bill. While the bill has no Democratic co-sponsors, Impallaria said some Democrats are quietly considering his proposal which said is particularly important for rural areas of the state where residents typically endure much longer response time from police.
“I think it’s going to have a very serious look this time -- a more serious look than last year,” he said.
Dumais said she is highly skeptical of the proposal, and that more guns in schools is not the solution. “I don’t think there's any scenario I would find it appropriate to have an individual in the school with weapons,” she said.