Chairman Vallario, Chairman Hammen, Vice-Chair Dumais, Vice-Chair Pendergrass, Members of the Committees:
Thank you for your consideration of the Firearms Safety Act of 2013,
We are offering these proposals because every life matters.
There are things we can do together to save lives while also protecting the rights of law abiding citizens.
Comprehensive, Common Ground Approach
The common sense proposals we have put before you this session seek common ground.
We can -- and should -- protect the safety of our brave police officers, without infringing on the traditions of hunters.
We can -- and should -- ask for a license and basic safety training, without banning all handguns.
We can -- and should -- recognize that no one needs a military-style assault weapon to hunt for deer.
And we all can agree that upgrading the physical security of our schools is an investment worth making.
An overwhelming majority of Marylanders support the reforms you are considering for a reason. The police chiefs, faith leaders, advocates for public health, advocates for domestic violence victims, the parents, the hunters that have come forward to endorse this legislation have chosen to do so for a reason:
These reforms are common sense. These reforms are comprehensive. These reforms are effective. And most importantly of all, these reforms just might save the lives of little boys and girls; of moms and dads and sisters and brothers,
By choosing to do things that work, together with law enforcement we are making very real progress to improve public safety and to save lives.
But we still have a long way to go. Guns still take the lives of too many of our fellow Marylanders. There is more we can and must do.
There are five basic components to the proposals we've put before you.
First, we are asking you to require a license and gun safety training in order to purchase a handgun.
Licensing keeps guns away from criminals and it saves lives.
In places where licensing is required, fewer guns make it into the hands criminals through "straw-purchases"--whereby, people buy guns only to hand them over to criminals, who then use these guns to kill or commit other crimes.
What's more, states that have similar licensing provisions to the ones you consider today have substantially lower gun death rates than states that do not.
Maybe this is why 85% of Marylanders support these provisions.
The proposals before you would ban the sale of military-style assault weapons. These military-style weapons are designed for our brave servicemen and women to use on the battlefield. They do not have a place on the streets or neighborhoods of Maryland.
Since the federal ban expired, at least 461 Americans have been killed by military-style assault weapons.[i] Of these 461 Americans, at least 35 were police officers.
The proposal before you would ban high capacity magazines with more than ten rounds. Today four states ban these high capacity magazines. These four states happen to among the states with the lowest rates of gun deaths.
These proposals do more to keep guns away from people who have been determined to be dangerous to themselves or others as a result of mental illness. Nearly half of all mass shootings are perpetrated by individuals who are mentally ill.
With your vote, we can also improve mental health treatment and timely data sharing between public health and public safety.
Finally, in this year's capital budget, we're asking for your support to upgrade security at Maryland schools with expert advice, and a $25 million investment.
In conclusion, the legislation we've put before you is comprehensive, common sense, and common ground, and it will improve public safety.
We've made important progress, together. Since 2006, we have driven down violent crime by 24.4%, and we have saved 426 lives by driving down homicide. 426 families who have not been shaken by the murder of a loved one. 426. That's enough people not only to fill this 300-seat hearing room, but to pack the halls as well.
If we save even just one more life, it is as if we have saved the entire world.
I humbly ask for your support of this legislation. Thank you.