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Maryland gun control law unlikely to stop gun violence

Oct. 3, 2000

Maryland has a new law on its books in the most recent attempt at gun control. The law, which went into effect Sunday, asks gun manufacturers to provide state police with the 'fingerprints' (ballistic information) of all guns sold in Maryland. The measure would make it much easier for police to identify the owner of a gun whose empty shell casings are left on a crime scene because the ballistic information of every gun sold in Maryland would be entered into a database that would trace each gun to a certain owner. Theoretically.

In reality, the law is far from adequate. In the first place, the law doesn't actually require gun manufacturers to pack these shell casings with the guns they ship to dealers. Saturday's edition of The Daily Oklahoman reported a police spokesman saying gun manufacturers have a 'responsibility' for selling guns that have casings in them. But there are no consequences for non-compliance. And dealers can still sell guns that don't have casings.

Secondly, the law only addresses gun-related crimes, which in 1996 only occurred in one in 160 times a gun was fired, the Violence Policy Center reports. So, in effect, the law means little.

It's easy to be detached from the gun control issue. After all, guns would never touch someone in the Baylor Bubble! (That's what the Littleton, Colo., community said, isn't it?) If you can accept that in 1996 alone, nearly 35,000 people died because of guns, according to the VPC, and that abcnews.com reports that since 1996,

40 people have been killed and another 60 injured in school shootings alone, one of those shooters being a 6-year old -- consider this: you, as taxpayers, had to pay $4 billion in medical costs for gun-related injuries. That works out to be a cost of $23 for every bullet sold in the United States, the VPC reports.

People who oppose gun control say that regulating guns violates the Second Amendment to the Constitution. The amendment states that Congress shall not infringe upon the right of the states to form militias and 'the right of the people to keep and bear arms.' Don't get me wrong -- I'm a big fan of the Constitution. I am not a big fan of 35,000 people dying each year because people are so busy arguing over the Second Amendment that they just sit back and watch the shootings, day after day. What these anti-gun control citizens don't realize is that states passing gun control legislation does not infringe on the Second Amendment.

The Supreme Court has interpreted the Second Amendment in a string of cases beginning in 1886, the VPC reports. The Court has said the amendment exists as a check on the federal government's power.

The Founding Fathers, very distrustful of a standing federal army, wanted to ensure that states had the authority to assemble militias. The amendment does not, the Court has said, bar states from regulating firearms. In fact, no gun control measure that states have passed has been ruled unconstitutional, according to the VPC.

I'm glad Maryland legislators are addressing the issue of gun-related deaths, because it is a serious problem. But it's just not enough. We must urge our legislators to pass more gun control laws so that senseless killings in this country will be rare, not common. And we must elect officials who hold as a priority the eradication of gun-related violence. Background checks, waiting periods, trigger locks, firearms registration and assault weapons bans are a good start. But until a majority of citizens in every state decide they are disgusted, as I am, with the gun violence in this country and want to do something serious about it, we will likely continue to live in a country that, according to the VPC, leads all industrialized nations by far in gun-related deaths in children.

Get involved. Write your congressman, join the American Civil Liberties Union or the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, elect leaders who care about stopping gun-related violence, and above all, don't become immune to the tragedies that an unregulated gun industry can cause.

(Helen Humphrey is a junior journalism major from Oklahoma City.)