Maryland's Second Amendment Nightmare: Coming Soon to a State Near You?
If you want to see how firearm sales can be effectively banned, look no farther than the so-called "free state" of Maryland. Although Maryland's newly promulgated "assault gun" ban and licensing requirements will not go into effect until October, it is already nearly impossible to reasonably purchase a pistol or other "regulated" weapon in the state, and those who do face waiting periods of 50-60 days and increasing daily. After October 1, with additional training requirements (including range time), fingerprinting, and licensing, it's likely that waiting times will increase exponentially, and that would-be legal gun owners will face periods of additional months, or conceivably years, before they can receive a pistol or other regulated weapon (though nevermore a so-called "assault weapon.") Under this scenario, it's hard to see how many gun dealers will remain in business, or why online outfits would bother to sell here (some already don't).
Going into a Maryland gun shop today is like going into an East German department store in the 1970s or '80s. You'll find little but empty shelves, or shelves filled with weapons already labeled "sold" but whose owners can't yet pick their guns up. Even without Maryland's draconian new gun law, weapons sales in the state are already heavily regulated. Maryland's ambitious leftist Democratic governor, Martin O'Malley, and a pliant Democratic-dominated legislature passed the harsh new measures despite the fact that Beretta operates its U.S. plant in Maryland and threatened to move and take hundreds of jobs with it if Maryland passed the new legislation. That made no difference to the Democrats.
Under already existing law, purchases of pistols or "assault weapons" are limited to one per month and require a background check by the Maryland State Police (MSP) and a seven-day waiting period. This system has already stymied gun sales in the state. With unprecedented purchases due to fear over potential (and now actual) heightened restrictions, the MSP is swamped with paperwork. Many gun enthusiasts suspect, like workers attempting to divine the will of the politburo, that the MSP is under secret orders from O'Malley to drag its feet processing new applications. I doubt that any such a conspiracy exists, or that the MSP is deliberately slowing the process. Rather, it is just choosing not to make heroic efforts to clear the backlog, while letting the law and natural bureaucratic inertia do the rest.
Beginning October 1, things promise to get immeasurably worse. The new Maryland law, like other recently promulgated efforts at firearms regulation, purports to respect the rights of gun owners, but its provisions quite insidiously eat away at the very heart of the 2nd Amendment. Most obviously is the "assault gun" ban, which makes most currently regulated long guns illegal.
Like other limiting state statutes, the Maryland law is filled with nonsense and misunderstandings. The statue obsesses over meaningless cosmetics, like pistol grips and flash suppressors, and thoroughly misunderstands firearm history. Some weapons, such as the M-1 carbine, are designated as "assault rifles" even though they were introduced many years before such a concept even existed. And while the M-1 carbine is currently regulated (and banned under the new law), its bigger, much more powerful cousin, the M-1 Garand, is specifically excluded from regulation. Yet it was the Garand, not the carbine, that was the principle battle rifle of American combat troops in World War II, famously described by General George Patton as "the greatest battle implement ever devised." The carbine, which fires a relatively weak pistol cartridge, was issued to rear area troops, while the Garand, which shoots the devastating .30-.06 round, equipped the infantry.
The rationale for such distinctions, insofar as any is evident, seems to be that the carbine uses an external box magazine, while the Garand does not. The current nemesis of gun regulators is the high-capacity magazine, and because the carbine can (although usually doesn't) take such a magazine, it is viewed as the more dangerous weapon.
But what really might kill gun ownership in Maryland is the new training, fingerprinting, and licensing requirements for owners of regulated firearms. With the MSP already denying rightful gun owners their weapons for up to two months (or more), the newer regulations promise to bring the system to a grinding halt. Would-be pistol owners now will have to not only take an eight hour classroom training course, but actually hit the range to be certified and licensed. And since Maryland has relatively few shooting ranges, the likelihood of this process moving along in anything like an efficient and effective manner is nil.
At some popular public ranges, you already have to take a ticket and wait though twenty or more people to get a bit of shooting time. After October 1, you'll have to camp out. And that doesn't even figure in the added complications of fingerprinting and paying for and issuing licenses.
Under this scenario it is hard to see how many gun shops will stay in business. While sales of unregulated firearms -- essentially bolt- and lever-action hunting rifles, or shotguns -- will remain relatively unscathed under the new regime, there is not so much hunting going on in the state that many businesses outside rural areas will remain profitable. As for online sales, some companies -- such as the popular outfit cheaperthandirt -- already choose not to sell to Maryland, even under its old regulations. Under the new statute, I expect many more to follow suit.
Those reading this in Southern or Western states and thinking, "Well, that's Maryland; it will never happen here" might do well to think again. Maryland is really a Southern state, and its rural areas on the eastern shore and the western panhandle support a culture not all that different from that in the South or West. But it is the dense concentrations of liberal folk in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, and in and around Baltimore, who are driving politics and policy in Maryland. It is less a matter of party affiliation than location that influences opinion.
Other states are not so different. And nationally, the opinions of people in the densely populated urban areas on the coasts generally mirror those in Maryland's urban areas, thus ultimately threatening to limit the rights of gun owners, even in the South and West, through federal legislation.
Gun rights activists are often mocked for fighting against even the most seemingly innocuous and reasonable regulation as direct assaults on the 2nd Amendment. But what's happening in Maryland shows that such concerns are not at all unreasonable.