Guest commentary: Md. firearms law is saving lives

Guest commentary: Md. firearms law is saving lives

While homicides have dropped in Baltimore city, the rate remains among the highest in the country, with teens victims leading the numbers.

Vincent DeMarco, president of Marylanders To Prevent Gun Violence, asked to respond to last week’s series on Gun Wars because he felt it did not fully describe the progress made by the Firearms Safety Act passed last year.

Readers are welcome to respond to DeMarco’s commentary following the usual rules for civil discourse in our terms of use. Representatives of other groups may respond to the series or DeMarco by writing to

By Vincent DeMarco

President of Marylanders To Prevent Gun Violence.

In 2013, the Maryland General Assembly passed and Governor O’Malley signed into law a landmark new gun violence prevention measure, the Firearms Safety Act, which is already saving lives in our state. We believe it should be a model for the nation.

Just this month a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by the gun lobby to overturn the law’s ban on assault weapons and high capacity gun magazines – meaning that these weapons of mass destruction are no longer legal for sale in our state.

Gun deaths are down

And statewide in Maryland, gun deaths have gone down 23% in the first seven months of 2014 compared to the same period last year. Surely, the Baltimore City Police Department’s new policing policies contributed to this decline in gun deaths. But, we at Marylanders To Prevent Gun Violence also believe that the Firearms Safety Act of 2013 played an important part in this progress, particularly its key provision requiring prospective handgun purchasers to first obtain a fingerprint-based license to purchase from the state police.

According to Professor Daniel Webster of the Johns Hopkins Center on Gun Policy and Research, handgun purchaser licensing laws in other states have worked well to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. As a result, states with such laws tend to have lower firearms-related death rates than states without such laws.

According to research done by Dr. Webster, when one state, Missouri, repealed its handgun purchaser licensing law in 2007, firearm-related homicide rates in the state abruptly increased while remaining stable in neighboring states and nationally.

Fingerprinting not challenged

Importantly, the gun lobby has not challenged this key provision of the Firearms Safety Act either at the polls or in court. After the law passed in 2013, they chose not to try to take it to referendum because they knew they would lose. According to an independent poll by Goucher College, 82% of all Marylanders, including 68% of gun owners, support fingerprint licensing of handgun purchasers.

Although they have unsuccessfully challenged in court the assault weapons ban in the Firearms Safety Act, the gun lobby has not challenged the underlining constitutionality of the fingerprint licensing provision. Neither this provision nor anything else in the Firearms Safety Act infringes upon Marylanders’ Second Amendment right to bear arms.

The Firearms Safety Act also includes other measures which help keep guns out of the wrong hands. Since the law took effect on October 1, 2013, the Maryland State Police has for the first time had the authority to better regulate gun dealers and penalize or even close down rogue dealers whose guns are often responsible for a disproportionate number of guns getting into the hands of criminals. In addition, the new law requires that gun owners report lost or stolen guns so as to discourage people from allowing their guns to get into the wrong hands. Finally, the law makes it harder for people with severe mental problems to get guns.

Other states should follow Maryland

The Firearms Safety Act is a model for how a state can reduce gun violence which other states should emulate.

But, clearly, our job is not done. Even one innocent life lost to gun violence is too many. Even as we make it more difficult for criminals to acquire guns in Maryland, we’ll still be vulnerable to criminals acquiring guns in other states.

In New York City, for example, which has one of the lowest gun death rates in the nation and where fingerprint licensing of handgun purchasers has been in effect for decades, 90 percent of the guns used in crime come from out of state.

So we must do all we can to educate the public, lawmakers in other states and members of Congress about how important handgun purchaser licensing is to prevent gun violence.

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About The Author

Len Lazarick

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.


  1. River Mud

    Now into the fourth year since the law was passed, and into our third straight year of record-breaking homicides and gun crimes in Maryland, I wonder if Vinny will peek back by to explain why the gun control law had no impact whatsoever on gun crimes in Maryland.

  2. Red-tailed Hawk

    It’s working great DeMarco… Baltimore is dying proof.

  3. River Mud

    I would love an update to the statistics behind the “already saving lives” deal. As the rest of the nation becomes safer every year, Maryland is marching back to the 1990s (and perhaps 1980s) in terms of gun violence. Great law, folks. Just outstanding. And to think, it only costs Maryland taxpayers $15 million per year to implement.

  4. Pilot

    Oh yea. This law is saving so many lives… Baltimore just had the highest murder rate it’s had in over 40 years or so… These gun laws seem to be working out great…

  5. River Mud

    As violent crime in Maryland continues to spiral out of control, I suppose Mr. DeMarco will be printing a retraction soon? “About that Firearms Safety Act – Turns Out, Basically a Waste of Time.”

    • River Mud

      Still waiting for a retraction from Mr. DeMarco, who has allegedly resigned several of his gun control posts as murders and shootings in Maryland are out of control for the second year since this atrocious law was passed. Over 2500 shootings including almost a thousand gun deaths in Baltimore alone since DeMarco promised this law would “start saving lives immediately,” and almost all of those guns were obtained by methods not addressed by DeMarco’s law.

      • River Mud

        Still waiting, shocked (ha) to hear no response. Over 3,000 shootings and over a thousand gun deaths since this supposed gun control Panacea was passed by Mr. DeMarco’s friends in the legislature. Record rates of firearm deaths. Fair to say that Maryland’s gun control “success” has not gone to plan.

        • River Mud

          Just came back by for my annual visit to see if DeMarco wrote a mea culpa on this topic. Over 3,000 shootings and 1,300 gun deaths since this law was passed 5 years ago. Higher rates (per population) than any 5 year period in Maryland history. This piece of legislation will go down in history as an epic failure.

  6. BlueMoon 21850

    Doesn’t Forbes still rate Baltimore as around the 3rd most dangerous city to live in the United States. Wake up you POS loser.

    Lol like criminals that want guns are going to get finger printed, background check and take a safety course. A little ferry dust and good thoughts will work just as good. The credit goes to good police. States manipulate crime stats all the time with plee bargains etc.

  7. River Mud

    Oops. Apparently, implying that the 40% of Maryland residents who are legal gun owners are criminals-in-waiting turned out to be a bad strategy for getting elected to the governor’s office. Sounds like Anthony Brown took a few too many talking points from Vinnie DeMarco!

  8. Read Me

    Did you ever come to realize that the introduction of the Firearms Safety Act initiated a massive spike in gun sales, meaning more Marylanders that have not owns firearms before are now proud firearms owners? Criminals don’t intend on targeting civilians who fight back. This could very well also be the reason why your so called “statistics” of, “gun deaths have gone down 23% in the first seven months of 2014 compared to the same period last year.”

    You should be afraid of guns in the hands of criminals, NOT guns in the hands of law abiding citizens. The introduction of this law has done nothing to get guns out of the hands of criminals, but only stains the hands of law abiding citizens that have done NOTHING wrong. When there’s a bump in the night and the police are going to take an excruciating two-five minutes to arrive you can cower in fear while I’ll be making sure not a single person living under my roof is going to get harmed. There’s a saying, “better to have it and not need, than to need it and not have it.” I’m a law abiding citizen, I am a gun owner, I stand on the same side of civilization as you, do not associate me as a criminal just because I choose a different alternative than you.

  9. clairem

    It’s unconstitutional, it prevents people from being prepared to protect themselves and their communities from 2- and 4-legged predators, and the rate of rape skyrocketed in Baltimore when stricter laws went into effect. Oh, and the carjacking–with guns that were not legally obtained or carried. And FBI stats show most gun crimes are committed by people already convicted of crimes, and most of those killed by guns also were already convicted of crimes. So disarming ordinary citizens doesn’t stop gangbangers or terrorists, as Mexico and the UK have learned the hard way. But, keep saying it so it at least will be true in your Orwellian mind.

  10. Kenneth Moore

    This guy Vinny doesn’t read nor did the Federal Judge. Heller is very clear.

    A total ban on handgun possession in the home amounts to a prohibition on an

    entire class of “arms” that Americans overwhelmingly choose for the

    lawful purpose of self-defense. Under any of the standards of scrutiny

    the Court has applied to enumerated constitutional rights, this prohibition—in the

    place where the importance of the lawful defense of self, family, and property is most acute—would fail constitutional muster.

    Public safety is not to be considered under ‘any standard of scrutiny”!

    All the number and percentage of shooting or deaths due to criminal neglect is just not
    keeping with judicial jurisprudence.

  11. Cliff Williams

    Funny that the writer doesn’t mention and espouse the wonderfulness of Maryland’s ballistic fingerprinting law. Oh wait! That’s because after millions of dollars it has yet to solve one crime or convict one criminal.

    • River Mud

      Lobbyist DeMarco doesn’t get paid if laws WORK, he gets paid if laws GET PASSED. Once the law’s no longer in danger of being repealed, I don’t think he’s overly concerned
      whether the law he helped pass solves a single crime.

  12. Kenneth Moore

    “An unconstitutional act is not a law; it confers no rights; it imposes no duties; it affords no protection; it creates no office; it is in legal contemplation as inoperative as though it had never been passed.”

    Norton v.
    Shelby County, 118 U.S. 425, 426 (1886)

    MD firearms laws are unconstitutional and the federal judge confirms that the US Constitution is not be interpreted by jurisprudence. Public safety is NOT a reason to deny an enumerated right.

  13. Jackal

    Daniel Webster’s research has serious flaws, and he was confronted on it in court. Just as another commenter said, he selectively chose data points to support his conclusion, just as Mr. DeMarco is doing here in this article.

    Also, polling does not indicate whether a policy is effective or even constitutional. Our society should follow the rule of law, which includes protecting our rights, and they should not be subject to the political whims of the majority. Vinny DeMarco’s line of reasoning is dangerous.

  14. River Mud

    Let’s not forget Firearm Ban guru Mr. Frosh – he of “I certainly deserve a concealed carry permit, however, you peasants do not.”

  15. River Mud

    Violent crimes, including gun crimes, have been decreasing for 30 years. Mr. DeMarco is well aware of that fact. In the 10 months the law has been in effect, Baltimore homicides have increased over the same month in the previous year in 5 of those 10 months. (3 of the other 5 months were in the middle of our historic long, cold, wet winter). While this doesn’t show that the Firearm Safety Act has WORSENED gun crime, it’s also a blatant lie to claim that the law has in any way positively affected gun crimes, including the most important gun crime – murder/homicide. The reality is what we all knew it would be – this law would have, in actuality, no impact on crime whatsoever, since criminals (most gun violence suspects in Maryland have previously been arrested for gun crimes) do not enroll in gun safety courses, psychological screenings, state police thumbprints, or background checks. I support reasonable gun control (enhanced background checks, waiting periods, stiffer punishments for gun crimes, no early release for gun crime convicts), but it’s commonly admitted that this law very much missed the mark – especially with the way it exempts ex-police and ex-military personnel from compliance (since ex-police or ex-mililtary personnel have NEVER gone off the rails and committed violent crimes with assault weapons). As such, the majority of the law will eventually fall in federal court – a fact that DeMarco is likely already aware of, but isn’t sharing with his supporters.

  16. Reductio ad absurdum

    Gun sales in Maryland surged in 2013 such that firearms ownership in the state is at an all time high. If we are to assume causality as PR strategist Mr. DeMarco does, this surge in firearms ownership has resulted in a reduction in gun-related homicides. Perhaps Maryland should go shall issue, as Illinois has, and Baltimore will experience even greater reductions in gun-related killings as is being observed in Chicago.

  17. jkey

    Thanks for the eloquently written lies.

  18. Jeff O'

    There is so much fail in this diatribe, I don’t even know where to begin. I’ll start
    by asking, “what part of infringed don’t you understand?” I love how these progressives think you should be fingerprinted to exercise one right but you shouldn’t need ID to exercise another.

  19. Robert Johnson

    I see you forgot that this law was “for the children”. Explain how? To date 12 juveniles have been killed by gun. This time last year there were 10. I guess it’s just another lie from Vinnie “the scum” ! !

    • Doug Hansen

      Two commenters in a row claiming “lies”. The facts are true, it’s the misguided reasoning that morphs those facts into explaining away my Rights. Vinnie REALLY BELIEVES what he writes…really believes, somehow, that criminals get firearms in the same manner you and I legally obtain them. How then, does he explain the booming heroin market in Baltimore when the law doesn’t allow it to anyone? Yes, they get it the same way they get their guns. So, the law did nothing, but make it harder for the law abiding citizen to protect themselves. Ban guns completely, Vinnie, then see what a mess you create. Thanks also to the governor…ugh.

  20. Harlem Globetrotter

    I guess all of the shootings that continuously plague Baltimore City we see on the news constantly are figments of our imagination. I wasn’t aware that gun laws were obeyed by criminals, being that the what defines a criminal is that they don’t obey laws? 1+1=3 now also. This is a great epiphany, there must also be gallant unicorns trotting down North Avenue and Cherry Hill celebrating all of the lives saved by the ridiculous gun laws of this state. It takes a really special kind of logic to disarm innocent citizens while further empowering the criminals who are gonna keep their guns anyway. BECAUSE THEY DON’T FOLLOW ANY LAWS IN THE FIRST PLACE. Absolutely insane.

  21. Dale McNamee

    From the article : ” The Firearms Safety Act, which is already saving lives in our state.”

    Really ? Then, what’s going on in Baltimore, where it seems that there’s a shooting every day ?

    As for statistics… Mark Twain was reported that there are : ” Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics…”

  22. dwb1

    Murder is on the decline nationally, but Baltimore, and Maryland specifically have woefully underperformed the nation. Maryland hovers somewhere between the 5th and 7th most murderous state, 70% happens in Baltimore. Maybe the fact that industrial jobs left Baltimore, along with the people, leaving the city a mess of vacant properties and median income less than Alabama has something to do with all the crime and murder. Baltimore is 40 times more dangerous than Howard or Mont County, measured by violent crime and shootings.

    Baltimore needs jobs and a thriving economy, not more silly gun laws that the heroin dealers will continue to ignore.

  23. dwb1

    Gotta love gun prohibitionists, they love to make up their own facts. Webster’s “research” was based on 5 data points. Once the fingerprinting requirement was removed murders went down. In reality, murders are extremely volatile one year to the next. With 5 data points, I can make up any story I like.

    The reality is Maryland is the 7th most murderous state in the union, and Baltimore is the heroin capital of the East Coast. Nearly all other states have no fingerprinting and fewer murders. And, the vast majority of murder happens in a tiny area called Baltimore City (and, not even Roland Park, but the other neighborhoods).

    Let’s see, From Oct 2013 to Jan 2014, we were having nearly a murder a day in Baltimore. The Polar vortex slowed things down and kept people inside. Since May we have had… nearly a murder a day. I always wonder, the Baltimore Police twitter feed shows drugs and guns confiscated together… and is only thankful the guns are off the street. Because, dealers who manage to smuggle heroin into the country from the Middle East, where is principally made, will have trouble getting more guns to guard their stash.

    So sad that people think Marylander’s are stupid enough to fall for Vinnie’s and Websters made up nonsense.

    Baltimore has a median income lower than Alabama. Democrats just point the finger at gun laws because they don’t have any real solutions to get the economy in Baltimore going again.

  24. Mark Newgent

    GK Chesterton once said fallacies do not cease to be fallacies simply because they become fashion. This describes Vinny DeMarco’s utterly unoriginal and fallacy laden piece. The tiny snap shot of one statistic is intended to make you think the Firearms Safety Act is responsible for reductions in gun deaths. Like most of Vinny’s claims, whether they be about cigarettes, or healthcare, Vinny’s assertion about the effectiveness is un-clever spin designed to fool the public. Vinny thinks if he adds the phrase “saves lives” to the end of his assertions that by some alchemy they become fact. The truth is gun violence in the nation was already on the decline over the last two decades. The U.S. Department of Justice 2011 special report Firearm Violence 1993-2011 shows a dramatic 39 percent drop in gun deaths over that period, and non-fatal gun crimes dropped 69 percent. In other words gun crimes were on the decline before Vinny and Governor O’Malley decided to exploit the Sandy Hook tragedy for political gain. These statistics and the reality of the matter are inconvenient for DeMarco and Governor O’Malley. After all, why did the O’Malley administration prevent a Maryland State Police Commander from testifying before the legislature that the FSA would do nothing to prevent violent criminals obtaining illegal guns or help reduce crime? Also, where was Vinny’s concern when the House Judiciary Committee, through legislative trickery stripped an amendment to the FSA that would have kept criminals who used illegal firearms in the commission of a crime off the streets longer through the removal of good behavior credits? DeMarco boldly boasts a woefully uninfomred federal judge’s decision to uphold the a court challenge to the FSA. He proudly claims that assault weapons (guns that fire one shot per trigger pull) and high capacity magazine, which he labels “weapons of mass destruction,” are no longer legal for sale in our state.” You’re right Vinny they aren’t, however, they are in the hands of our militarized police forces and SWAT units. Maryland’s SWAT data shows that over the last four years these heavily armed SWAT units were deployed over 6500 times, mostly to serve warrants on non-violent criminals. These weapons are on our streets and in our communities–in the hands of our militarized police forces. In Vinny DeMarco’s world it’s perfectly fine for the armed arm of local government to possess such weapons, but not for citizens to defend themselves.

  25. Bob the Democrat

    Liar, liar pants on fire.