Maryland governor signs gun violence prevention bills
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan signed measures Tuesday aimed at preventing gun violence, as well as legislation creating tougher sentences for repeat violent offenders and people who commit crimes with a gun.
Advocates who pushed for a law to help get guns away from people who pose a danger to themselves or others gathered in front and behind the governor and legislative leaders at a bill signing ceremony to cheer for progress after a year of high-profile gun violence in Maryland and around the country.
“I think the best thing about today is that you have bipartisan support for a spectrum of gun-violence prevention bills,” said Jen Pauliukonis, president of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, adding that the laws also address domestic violence, suicide and urban gun violence.
One measure Hogan signed will enable families and law enforcement to ask courts for an order to temporarily restrict firearms access to people found to be a risk to themselves or others. It’s known as a “red flag” law.
Cheryl Brooks, who attended the bill signing, said such a law could have helped save her son, who shot himself in 2014 about eight months after he showed signs of distress.
“Once we found out that he was in a crisis and we knew he had a gun, we tried so hard to get that gun away from him, but we were powerless to do that, especially without this bill,” said Brooks, of Westminster, Maryland. “I just hope the public overall knows that this bill exists now.”
Hogan signed a measure to ban bump stocks, which can increase a semi-automatic rifle’s firing rate. Bump stocks were used in the mass shooting in Las Vegas last year that killed 58 people and wounded more than 800.
He also signed legislation requiring convicted domestic abusers to surrender guns to law enforcement or a firearms dealer. Domestic abusers already are prohibited from possessing guns, but because of a loophole they were not required to give up guns they already owned before conviction.
Hogan, a Republican, described the legislation as “commonsense bipartisan measures that will keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and those with criminal backgrounds.”
The governor also signed a package of legislation to fight violent crime. It eliminates parole eligibility for repeat violent offenders and creates stronger sentences for people who commit crimes with a firearm.
Another provision aims to help prosecute volume dealers of fentanyl, the lethal ultra-potent opioid.
Hogan also signed a bill adding $3.6 million to Baltimore’s Safe Streets program, which uses mediators to steer young adults away from violence and connect them to services.
In other business, Hogan signed a measure restoring nearly $300 million over four years to municipal governments for road maintenance.