Attorney General Opines Gun Control Changes Are Legal

OCEAN CITY — While Lower Shore lawmakers continued to voice their disdain for Maryland’s new gun control laws passed during the 2013 General Assembly session, the state’s top attorney this week opined the legislation is constitutional.

During an Ocean City Economic Development Committee (EDC) meeting on Wednesday, the Lower Shore’s delegation in Annapolis told resort business leaders they did not support the Firearm Safety Act of 2013 in a session during which they received thousands of messages from constituents in their districts opposed to the legislation. One Thursday, Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler sent a letter to Gov. Martin O’Malley stating a thorough review of every element of the legislation revealed the new gun control laws would likely withstand constitutional scrutiny.

“We hope that this thorough review will assure you and the citizens of Maryland that Senate Bill 281 was crafted carefully to balance the rights of legitimate gun owners with the need for increased public and law enforcement safety from gun violence,” the letter reads. “We are confident that the resulting legislation is constitutional and legally defensible.”

Gansler’s letter said his office reviewed every aspect of law, from its second amendment framework to the assault weapon and high capacity magazine ban and from the handgun qualification license to the mental health provisions, and found the legislation to be constitutionally sound.

“Many opponents of this bill expressed their belief that there is a constitutional right to individual firearm protection that is exempt from regulation,” the letter reads. “That belief, however, is not supported by the Supreme Court decision itself, which is clear that there are important limitations on the exercise of the Second Amendment right.”

On Wednesday, Senator Jim Mathias (D-38) said he did not support the bill for a variety of reasons including the will of his constituents.

“Guns are part of our legacy in a rural community and I absolutely rejected this legislation,” he said. “I received over 20,000 calls, texts and emails on this issue.”

Delegate Norm Conway (D-38B), who has served in the House for nearly three decades, agreed the gun control bill generated a lot of opposition from the Lower Shore and other rural areas of the state.

“Never in my 27 years in Annapolis have I received so many calls and emails on a single issue,” he said. “Even with all of the horrors out there, there is still the Second Amendment and that needs to be protected. There are some things I can support like mental issues and background checks, but I am not going to give up the guns I have.”

Delegate Mike McDermott (R-38B), who is also a career law enforcement officer, said the passage of the Firearm Safety Act of 2013 was already having an impact on the state’s economy.

“There is a gun manufacturer in Cambridge that is now packing up and moving out of here, and that’s just one. There are five others ready to move,” he said. “These are silly, ridiculous laws that won’t make anybody safer. Again, this is only a resume builder for candidates on the liberal side of the state.”