News Release, MD House Minority Caucus
ANNAPOLIS, MD– The House Minority Caucus today called on the Democratic Majority in the General Assembly to put forward serious solutions to address the violent crime crisis in Maryland. Instead of facing reality and the clear statistical facts of the problem, they have thrown their support behind House Bill 4, a bill that targets lawful gun owners rather than illegal guns and those who use them to commit violent crimes.
“The Democrats in the House of Delegates had an opportunity today to directly address the crisis of violent crime in our state, and they simply didn’t take it,” said House Minority Leader Nic Kipke. “Instead they chose instead to focus their attention on the wrong guns and the wrong people; law-abiding citizens and the firearms they use for hunting and sport.”
Members of the Minority Party offered several amendments to the House Bill 4 that would directly address Maryland’s violent crime crisis. One amendment would have closed the “drug dealer loophole” that would classify possessing a firearm while dealing drugs a violent crime, another would make straw purchases – buying a gun on behalf of someone who is not legally permitted to own one – a felony, the third would have made the theft of a firearm a felony. These amendments were defeated almost exclusively along party lines.
California passed similar background check legislation a decade ago. An extensive study by UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that no change in firearm homicide or suicide rates in the 10 years since its passing.
“House Bill 4 is replete with traps for law-abiding gun owners who merely wish to exercise their Second Amendment rights,” said Delegate Dan Cox. “There is no data to back up the claim that this bill will keep our communities safer. In fact, the data available tells us this bill is focused on the wrong types of weapons.”
“Advocates for this legislation have stated this bill is necessary due to the 30 shotgun or rifle-related murders from 2013 to 2017,” said Delegate Kipke. “Those deaths are absolutely tragic, but this thinking ignores the fact that, over that same time there were 264 murders using knives and sharp objects and 87 murders using hands, fists, feet, etc. It also ignores the more than 300 murders committed with handguns in Baltimore City just last year and the crisis of violent crime across the state.”
There were 470 murders in Maryland in 2018. Of those, more than 73% were committed using a handgun. Just over 8% were committed with a knife or sharp object. Just over 2% were committed using a rifle or shotgun. Of the 348 murders in Baltimore City in 2019, 87% were committed using a handgun, while under 3% were committed with a shotgun or rifle.
Caucus members also discussed the push by House Democrats to override Governor Hogan’s veto of a bill that would abolish Maryland’s citizen-led Handgun Permit Review Board. That override vote is expected Thursday.
“Instead of focusing on the monsters that murder mothers in front of their children, the House of Delegates has instead decided to revert to form and focus its attention on the low-hanging fruit, Maryland’s law-abiding gun owners,” said House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga. “It is unconscionable to try to package either bill as anything more than they are, a hit on the constitutional rights of Maryland’s citizens that ignores the ongoing loss of life in our state.”