By: Bryan Renbaum, MarylandReporter.com
Del. Wayne Hartman (R-Wicomico-Worcester) urged fellow lawmakers on Wednesday to pass legislation that would allow workers in high-risk professions — including firefighters, EMTs, probation officers, nurses and security guards at houses of worship — to carry handguns.
“This bill would require the secretary of the state police to issue a permit to carry, wear or transport a handgun to a person who meets certain requirements and is employed in certain professions. Those assumed-risk professions would be correctional officers, probation officers, firefighters, EMTs, rescue-squad members, security guards for churches and religious organizations, physicians, physician’s assistants, nurses, and nurse practitioners,” Hartman said at a House Judiciary Committee hearing in Annapolis.
“Unfortunately, as times change, there have been many events that lead up to the need for this bill. In 2018 an off-duty correctional officer was killed on the street in Queens, New York. In 2016, a female correctional officer was killed in Brooklyn in a drive-by shooting. In Virginia, in 2019, a firefighter was killed on the night of Thanksgiving. She had just spent her Thanksgiving delivering Thanksgiving meals to the most unfortunate — only to be shot and killed that night while responding to a call.”
Hartman said the legislation would increase state revenues. He cited the bill’s fiscal note as evidence of that claim. It states that “General fund revenues from handgun permit fees” would “increase by $1.9 million in FY 2021.” It also states that General fund expenditures would increase by $492,200 during that year. The net increase for FY 2021 is $1,382,800, according to the fiscal note.
Edward Hershon, an Annapolis-based attorney, said he has represented many clients who have tried to obtain a wear-and-carry permit from the Maryland State Police. He said that many of those clients are firefighters and EMTs and that they are no stranger to threats from dangerous individuals.
“These people come to me because they are under threat, and they see the effects of violence in our communities and wish to protect themselves,” Hershon said. The lawyer said he has several clients who are paid and volunteer firefighters or EMTs “who live and work in the same areas. And when they are on a call in the area they live, they are sometimes giving bad news to people — especially in urban areas where the result is gang violence.
“Oftentimes there will be factions saying: ‘If you save him, we’re gonna kill you. And if you don’t save him we’re gonna kill you.’ These people live in these communities as well. They need to protect themselves when they are out there — not just working, but when they’re going shopping, going to a restaurant…this has been a problem.”
Vance Webster, who is a veteran firefighter and paramedic in Anne Arundel County, said he was ultimately able to obtain a wear-and-carry permit after having received successive threats from an individual who routinely called 911. Webster described the arduous process he went through to get the permit and said that initially, police did not take his complaint seriously.
“My permit, however, was denied for approximately three months until I could arrange for a police officer to be present and witness the threat firsthand and document it to satisfy the trooper’s request. I was fortunate that an officer was willing to document this threat. At first, he thought I was joking because most of us take it as part of the job where it’s a perceived risk.”
Committee members asked the witnesses on the three panels questions about how the legislation would help them in their various professions. The lawmakers did not debate the measure. There was no testimony in opposition to the legislation.
Hartman is one of 14 delegates who are sponsoring the bill, HB1502-Handgun Permits-Qualifications-High Risk Professions. The legislation would, according to its text, require the “Secretary of State Police to issue a certain permit to carry, wear, or transport a handgun to a person who meets certain requirements and is employed in a certain profession.”