Governor Martin O'Malley today formally announced the Administration's public safety priorities for the 2013 Legislative Session, including a comprehensive approach to addressing gun safety and violence prevention in Maryland.
"Progress is a choice. So long as gun violence continues to take the lives of our fellow Marylanders, there are choices we must make together to protect our children, our families and law enforcement personnel who put themselves in harm's way every day," said Governor O'Malley. "Today, we're putting forward a comprehensive set of public safety initiatives that will improve the safety at our schools, make meaningful mental health reforms, and enact common-sense gun safety measures like banning military-style assault weapons and limiting high-capacity magazines."
"Over recent months, we've witnessed violence throughout this country, often in the places you'd least expect, such as an elementary school in Connecticut or a movie theater in Colorado," said Lt. Governor Brown. "Yet we also know that tragically, in too many of our communities, violence has become far too common-place. This legislative package will give us the tools to combat that violence, but we also need to continue to work together in neighborhoods across Maryland if we want to address the terrible violence on our street corners, in our homes or in our schools."
Gov. O'Malley was joined at the announcement by Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown, House Speaker Michael E. Busch, members of the Maryland General Assembly, members of the Executive Cabinet, local enforcement and other officials.
This session, the O'Malley-Brown Administration will pursue an agenda to improve public safety and protect Maryland families that focuses on three principal areas: gun safety, school safety, and improving mental health safeguards and services.
Among the proposals in the Administration's legislative agenda are a ban on all assault weapons, limitations on magazine capacity from 20 rounds to 10, stronger licensing requirements on handgun purchases and restrictions on possession of guns and ammunition. The package also protects Second Amendment rights with common-sense gun safety proposals that will not infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens.
"I applaud Governor O'Malley's leadership to prevent gun violence," said Professor Daniel Webster, director of the Center for Gun Policy and Research at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "Research supports that purchaser licensing systems are the most effective approaches to curtailing illegal straw purchases and gun trafficking."
"I commend Governor O'Malley for his leadership in working to make communities across Maryland safer by initiating measures to reduce gun violence," said Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson, a member of Vice President Joe Biden's gun task force. "The National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence, which I chair, has been calling for background checks for all firearm purchasers, as well as a ban on semiautomatic assault weapons and ammunition magazines in excess of ten rounds -- measures the Governor is putting forth today for our state. We must do all we can to ensure that we keep guns out of the wrong hands and that we keep excessive firepower out of our communities."
The Governor's FY 2014 budget dedicates $25 million of the proposed school construction funds to strengthening school security with camera at entrances, automatically locking doors, shatterproof glass, and buzzer entrance systems among other enhancements. The agenda also establishes a Maryland Center for School Safety, a partnership between federal, state and local law enforcement partners to ensure a comprehensive approach to school safety.
Kenneth Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services commended the school safety component of the Administration's proposal: "School administrators are seeking practical information and resources to better secure their schools and strengthen their school emergency preparedness planning for managing crisis incidents. By providing dollars to improve the security of school facilities, identifying gaps in educator training and emergency plans, and coordinating the distribution of best practice information to school and law enforcement officials, the State of Maryland is taking meaningful steps to help educators strengthen their school security and emergency preparedness."
The Administration encourages a comprehensive approach to safeguarding mental health and making improvements to services. The plan includes information sharing among federal and state partners for background checks, improving mental health services in Maryland, and establishing a Department of Health and Mental Hygiene-led Task Force to Improve Continuity of Care for Individuals in the Community Mental Health System.
"The Maryland Psychiatric Society applauds the thoughtful approach that Governor O'Malley has taken in addressing the issues of violence and mental illness," said Dr. Elias Shaya, chief of psychiatry at Good Samaritan Hospital and President of the Maryland Psychiatric Society. "We look forward to continued collaboration with the Administration to expand access to effective treatment, improve continuity of care, and develop sensible approaches that both protect public safety and support health."