Alternative gun legislation proposals

A group of Maryland delegates gathered behind Del. Michael Smigiel as he he talk about his alternatives to Gov. Martin O'Malley's gun and public safety proposals.

ANNAPOLIS - A group of delegates got together Friday afternoon after session to introduce a number of bills as alternatives to Gov. Martin O'Malley's gun control and public safety legislation.

One bill introduced by Del. Michael Smigiel, R-36-Cecil, would establish training requirements for people who wish to have a permit to carry a handgun. Smigiel said those who are police officers, are or were in the military, have taken a hunter safety course or a nationally recognized course would qualify under state law to carry a handgun.

"What we don't want to have is something that would be onerous on the citizens of Maryland and prevent them from being able to fully exercise their Second Amendment rights," Smigiel said.

Another thing Smigiel said the group of delegates is worried about is O'Malley giving too much discretion to the Maryland State Police with respect to how they will interpret and allow the citizens of Maryland to exercise their gun rights, so the bill also would address that situation.

Another bill Smigiel introduced would require Maryland to join a federal database that reports to the National Crime Information Center Database, which prevents those who have mental illness from purchasing handguns in their home states and other states that participate.

"They're a threat to themselves or others and they live in the state of Maryland, they will be reported nationally, and then what happens is that person goes to the state of Pennsylvania, or another state, and tries to purchase a firearm and come back to Maryland, they're prevented from doing so," Smigiel said.

Smigiel said Maryland currently isn't involved in a national database and the last information he received was that three people are reported in the state as having a mental illness and are prevented from buying a handgun in the state. Other states that take part in the national database have more than 100,000 people reported.

"These are steps that the state of Maryland should take to protect people who should not be getting firearms from being able to do so," Smigiel said.

Another bill would reopen the Upper Shore mental health center in Chestertown that closed, Smigiel said.

He said it would help those who have been kicked out of mental health services and now live on streets or end up in jail where there are no services available.

"If you have a problem, you go to an emergency room, and currently people who have mental health problems, they get about 48 hours, they're given some medication and they're put back on the street. They become victims or they become defendants because they end up in jail," Smigiel said. "If the state is serious about protecting the citizens of Maryland, then they have to address the mental health problem."

Smigiel said he wants to make sure there is a balance between the privacy of those individuals with mental illnesses, which would relieve the stigma attached to a mental illness, and also to make services affordable. He said the bill should be able to address those who shouldn't get access to firearms and those that could, and current gun legislation says if someone is admitted involuntarily for more than 30 days, hey are not able to buy a firearm.

Del. John W. E. Cluster, R-8-Baltimore County, introduced a bill that would look to better protect kids at school.

Cluster said about a third of Maryland schools currently are covered by school resource officers, so his bill would put a resource officer in every public school in the state.

"I know it's going to be a little expensive, but I always said, how much are our kids' lives worth?" Cluster said.

He said there's going to be steady-stream gambling revenue coming into the state, and Legislative Services said there's going to be anywhere from $500 and $700 billion dollars a year that's supposed to go to education.

Cluster said after taking a look at O'Malley's public safety proposals, he realized that none of them were going to have an impact on school safety, and putting in a school resource officer in every school would have an immediate impact.

Cluster said of the ideas that O'Malley has come up with is putting $25 million for school locks and windows.

"Well, as we've seen in Connecticut, they had school locks. Did it work? absolutely not," Cluster said. "

He said putting a law enforcement officer in that school will have an immediate impact of the kids' safety as the resource officer will be able get on the scene of an incident within 30 seconds to a minute.

"Our president is protected by guns. Our Congress is protected by guns. Our governor is protected by guns. Our county executives are protected by guns. We're (delegates) protected by guns down here, but our students are protected by a sign that says gun-free zone. I think they deserve better than that," Cluster said.

Another bill, which was presented by Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, R-37B-Talbot, would strengthening the standards and create truth in sentencing for criminals who create a crime with a firearm.

The goal of the bill is to go after criminals who actually have an effect on public safety instead of going after law-abiding citizens, Haddaway-Riccio said.

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