2020 MDGA - Testimony in Support of SB672, SB674 and HB914

These Bills 

The purpose of these bills is to provide for greatly enhanced penalties for the theft of a firearm.  Under current law, theft of a firearm is treated just like the theft of any other piece of personal property.  For example, under MD Code Criminal Law § 7-104(g)(2), “a person convicted of theft of property or services with a value of at least $100 but less than $1,500, is guilty of a misdemeanor and: (i) is subject to: 1. for a first conviction, imprisonment not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding $500 or both; and 2. for a second or subsequent conviction, imprisonment not exceeding 1 year or a fine not exceeding $500 or both. 

All of these bills would change these penalties to a felony. SB 672 would apply only to theft of a handgun and punish a first offense as a felony, imposing a sentence of at least 2 years and not exceeding 5 years and/or a fine of $5,000. SB 674 and its cross-filed bill, HB 914, would apply to the theft of any firearm and would impose, on the first offense, imprisonment of at least 2 years and not exceeding 5 years and and/or a fine of $1,000.  All the bills would impose minimum sentences of at 2 years on the first offense. 

These Bills Are Necessary For the Public Safety:

Simply put, it is unbelievable that theft of a firearm is punishable so lightly under current law.  The value of most firearms, including most handguns, fall into the range of between $100 and $1,500 and thus theft of such firearms is currently punished at most by 6 months in prison and/or a small fine.  In reality, persons convicted of such a crime are very unlikely to see any jail time at all, as the Maryland Sentencing Guidelines classify this property crime as a Category VII offense (even on a second offense), which is the least serious offense listed in the Guidelines and one that can be punished by mere probation.  See http://www.msccsp.org/Guidelines/Matrices.aspx#property. Yet, it should be obvious that stealing a firearm is a serious threat to the community and, as such, well deserving of actual punishment.  See David J. Cherrington, Crime and Punishment: Does Punishment Work? at 4 (2007) (“Studies of punishment have shown that individuals who have observed others being punished change their behavior almost as much as those who were actually punished.”), available at https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1953&context=facpub.

Indeed, the mild, non-punishment accorded to the theft of firearms is particularly striking in light of the severe penalties that Maryland law metes out to otherwise law-abiding citizens of Maryland who happen to run afoul of one of the many criminal provisions of Maryland’s firearms law.  For example, a new resident of Maryland who knowingly neglected to register his or her regulated firearm within 90 days of becoming a Maryland resident, as required by MD Code Public Safety § 5-143, is subject to imprisonment for 5 years and/or a $10,000 fine under MD Code Public Safety § 5-144(b). A law-abiding person who knowingly “receives” a handgun in Maryland without possessing a Handgun Qualification License issued under by MD Code Public Safety § 5-117.1, can likewise be punished by 5 years imprisonment and/or fined under Section 5-144. 

Other provisions of Maryland firearms law do not even require a mens rea. An otherwise innocent “transport” in Maryland of a so-called “assault weapon” banned by MD Code Criminal Law §4-303, is punishable by up to 3 years imprisonment and/or a fine of $5,000 under MD Code Criminal Law §4-306, regardless of whether the person even knew of the prohibition.  Under MD Code Criminal Law § 4-203, a person is “subject to imprisonment for not less than 30 days and not exceeding 3 years or a fine of not less than $250 and not exceeding $2,500 or both” for as little as leaving an unloaded handgun in the car’s trunk while doing grocery shopping on the way home from the range. No mens rea required.

And severe punishment is not restricted to firearms.  Absentmindedly taking a penknife (e.g., a Swiss Army knife) anywhere onto school “property” is a violation of MD Code Criminal Law §4-102, and that crime is punishable by imprisonment not exceeding 3 years or a fine not exceeding $1,000 or both, regardless of scienter. Under MD Code Criminal Law, § 4-101, merely carrying pepper spray in one’s pocket can be punished by 3 years of imprisonment and/or a $1,000 fine.

Maryland should not be punishing mistakes by otherwise innocent persons so severely while letting actual thieves of firearms off the hook with the proverbial “slap on the wrist.”  After all, thieves actually know that stealing is criminal. Nothing good can come from stealing a firearm. We urge a favorable report for either one of these bills.

Sincerely,

Mark W. Pennak
President, Maryland Shall Issue, Inc.

PDF Available Here


Latest News

Court Uphold's MD's Taking of Rapid Fire Trigger Activators

 

In a sharply split, 2-1 decision, a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has held that Maryland may ban the possession of "Rapid Fire Trigger Activators" by existing owners without paying just compensation under Fifth Amendment or the Maryland Constitution.  The majority ruled that no just compensation was owed to existing, lawful owners because the ban “does not require owners of rapid fire trigger activators to turn them over to the Government or to a third party.”  In short, as far as this majority is concerned, the State is free to ban the possession of any personal property without paying just compensation unless the State puts the property into its own pocket or the pocket of a third party.  If that is the law, then no personal property, of any kind, is safe from the grasping clutches of the General Assembly.  For example, the State could ban possession of your existing car and not pay a dime.  The dissenting opinion ably demolishes the majority's reasoning.  Needless to say, we will be seeking further review.

You can read the ruling HERE.  Stay tuned.

Maryland Shall Issue will continue to fight for the interests and rights of its members and the public, but to do so requires resources and your help. Consider joining or donating to MSI.

Background Checks for Firearms Purchases and Licenses Interrupted

Due to a systems failure on the morning of June 21st within the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Corrections Services (DPSCS), the Maryland State Police (MSP) was no longer able to complete background checks for Handgun Qualification Licenses (HQL), regulated firearms transfers (77R transfers), and Wear and Carry Permit background investigations. DPSCS have since restored their systems and the MSP have been processing background checks as fast as they can. We appreciate the efforts of the State Police to remedy the backlog as quickly as possible, though the bureaucratic processes created by the General Assembly compounds these issues for Marylanders who are merely trying to protect themselves.

From the MSP:

Background Checks Underway After Data System Restored

(PIKESVILLE, MD) — Maryland State Police Licensing Division employees worked throughout the night and will continue to work around-the-clock to address pending regulated firearm purchase applications after a state data system was restored late yesterday.

At about 8:30 p.m. yesterday, the State Police Licensing Division was notified by officials at the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services that the data system had been restored and access to background check information was available.  Employees at the Licensing Division immediately began completing background check investigations on the regulated firearm purchase applications that had been pending since a system failure occurred on June 21st.

Licensing Division employees worked throughout the night and will continue to work around-the-clock until all pending and incoming regulated firearm purchase applications have been reviewed and are being completed within Maryland’s required seven day waiting period.  Even with employees working 24-hours-a-day to address this, the process is anticipated to take several days to complete.  The Licensing Division continues to work with Maryland’s licensed firearms dealers to track any regulated firearm released after the waiting period, but before full completion of the background check process.

As of 4:00 p.m. yesterday, information from Maryland firearms dealers indicated that of the 893 firearm purchase applications eligible for release, 54 regulated firearms had been released to customers after the seven day waiting period had passed.  The individuals receiving those firearms were the first ones background checks were conducted on during the night.  There were no prohibiting factors found for any of those applicants.


As far as we know, there's no evidence or information to suggest that anyone's personal information was comprimised while the systems were down and none of the applicants whose dealer released firearms to them failed or would have failed background checks.

While the MSP have asked the Dealers to hold off on releasing any regulated firearms (handguns) until the checks completed, dealers may release regulated firearms on the 8th day after a transaction at their discretion. From the MSP's latest advisory on 6/25:

Should the RFD elect to exercise their statutory option to release a regulated firearm on the eighth day, we ask that the procedure listed below be followed:

1. The RFD will access their Licensing Portal;
2. locate the application to be released within the “SUBMITTED APPLICATIONS” section;
3. print a copy of the application;
4. verify that all information in “Section 4” is accurate;
5. both the RFD and the applicant will sign and complete “Section 6;”
6. scan and send the completed copy of the 77R to .

Additional Coverage:
Maryland Handgun Background Check System Crashes, Leaving Gun Buyers in Limbo - Washington Free Beacon
Citing a ‘catastrophic hardware failure,' Maryland State Police report delays in gun background checks and licenses - Baltimore Sun
Guns sold without completed background checks in Maryland - WUSA9
After ‘Catastrophic Hardware Failure,’ Dozens Of Guns Were Released Without Completed Background Checks In Maryland - WAMU

Contact Info

Headquarters:

Maryland Shall Issue®, Inc.
9613 Harford Rd
Ste C #1015
Baltimore, MD 21234-2150

Phone:  410-849-9197
Email: 
Web:   www.marylandshallissue.org