House Minority Leader Nic Kipke, R-Anne Arundel, said legislation that would require background checks for secondary transfers of “long guns” such as rifles and shotguns would do little to reduce violent crime in Maryland.
“The problem with it is that it doesn’t work. The bill that they brought over doesn’t work. It’s been tried in different places around the country,” Kipke said at a news conference at the State House on Wednesday.
Kipke urged Democrats to get behind a series of GOP-sponsored crime reduction proposals. One bill would make prosecutors who offer plea bargains to defendants more accountable to the public.
“We have a bill that if they decide to plea bargain-they have got to justify it to the victim-and if the victim is dead-to their family.”
Kipke suggested Democrats have dropped the ball in addressing violent crime.
“We are seeking to address the violent crime epidemic in our state. I don’t hear much about it beyond the governor and our caucus and the Senate Republican Caucus.”
Kipke said the issue should not be partisan.
“Its not a Republican thing. Its not a Democratic thing. Both Republicans and Democrats are dying all around this state.”
Kipke spoke after the House rejected three Republican amendments to the bill.
Del. Dan Cox, Frederick-Carroll, introduced the first amendment. It would have eliminated the “drug dealer loophole” so that selling drugs while in possession of a gun would be considered a violent offense. The second amendment was introduced by Kipke. It would have made “straw purchases” a felony instead of misdemeanor. A straw purchase is when a gun is purchased by one person on behalf of another. Del. Jason Buckel, Allegany, introduced the third amendment. It would have made stealing a gun a felony instead of a misdemeanor. The parliamentarian ruled the amendment out of the order because it sought to strip the bill of its intended purpose.
After more than an hour of debate on the amendments, the House ultimately agreed to delay consideration of the legislation until Thursday.
During floor debate, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Luke Clippinger, D- Baltimore City, said the Republican amendments were designed to thwart the background check process.
“We can talk about other tangential issues…we are here because we believe people should be required to have a background check with the purchase of a firearm.”
Danielle Veith, a volunteer with the Maryland chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, told MarylandReporter.com that she believes the legislation would help save lives.
“This press conference doesn’t change what we know to be true: Closing the dangerous loophole in our background check system will save lives. Rifles and shotguns are every bit as dangerous as handguns, as we saw in the Capital Gazette shooting. To argue against this legislation is to further jeopardize public safety. We look forward to seeing this legislation advance through both chambers and signed by the governor.”
Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, D-Howard, is sponsoring the legislation, HB004.
Earlier this month the Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the bill. Among those who testified was Andrea Chamblee, the widow of slain Capital Gazette editor John McNamara. He was fatally shot on June 28, 2018, along with four other Gazette employees — Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiassen, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters — by Jarrod Ramos, who was armed with a pump-action shotgun. Ramos also injured two other employees. He has pleaded guilty to all the charges in the shootings but it has not yet been determined if he is legally responsible.
At the Jan. 15 hearing, Atterbeary said the legislation would provide exceptions for permanent and temporary transfers. She defended her bill on the floor on Wednesday, largely refuting Republican assertions that the bill could hinder the activities of those who shoot for sport.
Last year there were at least 348 homicides in Baltimore City.