Today marks the end of the fourth week of this year’s Legislative Session. I introduced several bills this week, and I’ve been working diligently to gain support for my legislative proposals. I’ve also been working with my colleagues, attending hearings, and meeting with stakeholders to hear about the wide range of issues that are before the General Assembly this session. This week’s highlights include:
The State of the State – On Wednesday, January 30, Governor O’Malley gave the annual State of the State address to the General Assembly. The Governor set forth a bold agenda for the future of our state, and focused on how the choices we, as a state, have made have created incredible results for Marylanders.
The Governor highlighted several areas - including fiscal responsibility, jobs and the economy, and education – where our policy choices have allowed Maryland to survive and thrive in difficult economic times. We should all be proud that Maryland is, at once, #1 among all states in education (for 5 years running), innovation and entrepreneurship, reducing the cost of higher education, human capital capacity, PHD scientists and researchers, research and development, women-owned-businesses, and in median family income.
These significant achievements are a result of the choices that we’ve made, and the priorities that we’ve set. For instance, the Governor noted that Maryland is one of only seven states that maintains a Triple A bond rating, demonstrating fiscal responsibility, and encouraging economic investment that creates jobs. The economic downturn has forced the state government to become more efficient, and public-private partnerships have created thousands of jobs at the Port of Baltimore. Environmental policies have helped maintain the health of our waterways, to preserve jobs, and to increase the number of Maryland oysters. Investments and improvements in law enforcement have brought the rate of violent crime down to its lowest level since 1987.
While we should take pride in our significant accomplishments, we still face significant challenges. The governor reminded us that we need to continue to make choices now that will allow our state to remain strong into the future, and to ensure that the benefits of living in our state, with all that it provides, reaches all Marylanders. The state of our State is strong, and I look forward to making it stronger.
You can find the text of the speech here: http://www.governor.maryland.gov/speeches/sos2010.pdf, and video here: http://www.governor.maryland.gov/stateofstate2013.asp.
My Legislation – This week, I introduced several bills, and will continue to rally support for my proposals in the coming days and weeks to ensure that they become law. I’d like to focus on three gun-related bills that I have been working on. As you are aware, gun violence is one of the most serious problems we face in Baltimore, and we can no longer allow the status quo to continue. The numbers are disheartening:
- Of 217 murders in Baltimore last year, 180 were committed with a handgun.
- Of the 86 suspects arrested in connection with these murders, 39 had previously been arrested for a gun crime.
- In addition to these killings, there were 372 non-fatal shootings in Baltimore in 2012.
We simply cannot accept this level of violence in our City. I support the Governor’s proposal on guns, but I have worked extremely hard to come up withlegislation that will go beyond that proposal, in order to prevent the type of gun violence that plagues our City.
Requiring Reporting of Lost or Stolen Guns – I am prepared to introduce a bill which will discourage straw purchasing of firearms throughout the state, and will establish a comprehensive and consistent statewide standard for reporting in order to prevent criminals from easily avoiding local laws. I have been gathering the support of my colleagues – 39 co-sponsors so far – so that we can ensure that this important legislation becomes law in our State.
This bill is the result of extensive discussions with law enforcement, especially the BPD, and gun policy experts at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. It will prevent the illegal transfer of firearms to criminals by creating a state-wide reporting requirement for lost or stolen firearms. The bill will require licensed gun owners to report a lost or stolen firearm within 72 hours of the time that they knew or should have known that the firearm was missing.
In order to target and deter straw purchasers who claim that firearms registered to them are lost or stolen when those weapons are used in a crime, this bill incorporates increased penalties for second or subsequent offenses:
- First offense- imprisonment not exceeding 90 days and/or a fine not exceeding $500.
- Second or subsequent offense- imprisonment not exceeding 1 year and/or a fine not exceeding $1,000.
The City of Baltimore already has reporting requirements if a firearm is lost or stolen, but it is ineffective because many of the firearms that are found in Baltimore City are registered in other jurisdictions where there is no reporting requirement. This bill would make it harder for criminals to acquire guns.
This bill will not criminalize any lawful activity, nor will it penalize responsible, registered owners who notify police of the loss or theft of a firearm. The bill willdeter and punish those people who repeatedly lose their firearms, and keep more firearms out of the hands of criminals.
Punishing Criminals Who Use Guns – This week, along with Del. Valderrama of Prince George’s County, I introduced HB 575, which will remove the statute of limitations for the use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence. Under current law, the aggravating charge of using a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence – which carries a mandatory 5 year sentence – has only a one year statute of limitations. That means that if, for example, a person commits armed robbery with a handgun, but isn’t found until over a year after the crime, they can only be charged for the robbery, and not for the use of a handgun. My bill will allow prosecutors to charge people for the crime that they committed, regardless of when they are caught, and will ensure that dangerous criminals are put behind bars for the amount of time that their crimes deserve. You can find the bill here: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2013RS/bills/hb/hb0575F.pdf
Preventing Access to Firearms by Children – This week, I introduced HB 655, which increases the penalty for knowingly leaving or storing a loaded firearm where an unsupervised child (under 16 years of age) could gain access. This will increase the penalty from a maximum fine of $1,000 to a maximum $5,000 fine and/or imprisonment up to 3 years. This bill will curb dangerous and irresponsible behavior, without affecting the rights of responsible gun owners.
This bill is important to keep guns out of the hands of children, who too often harm themselves or others because they had access to a gun in the home. For example, an October 2000 study by the U.S. Secret Service found that of 37 school shootings, in more than 65% of the cases, the attacker got the gun from his or her own home or that of a relative. Other studies have found that Child Access Prevention (or CAP) laws reduce accidental shootings of children by as much as 23 percent, and suicides of adolescents by 8 percent. You can find the text of the bill here: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2013RS/bills/hb/hb0655F.pdf
Spread the word! Do you have friends who might like to receive my e-mailedupdates from Annapolis? Let them know they can go to www.luke46.org and sign up for my updates today!
Knocking on your door soon! I'll be knocking on doors in South Baltimore, Butchers Hill, Brewers Hill and Greektown this weekend - e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to join me.
I appreciate your interest in my work in the General Assembly, and I am thankful for your continued support. Now is the time to ensure that we make wise choices to improve the lives of Marylanders. As always, you can reach me at410-841-3303, or at Luke.Clippinger@house.state.md.us.
 United States Secret Service, U.S. Department of the Treasury, An Interim Report on the Prevention of Targeted Violence in Schools 6 (Oct. 2000).
 Cummings P, Grossman DC, Rivara FP, Koepsell TD. State gun safe storage laws and child
mortality due to firearms. JAMA 1997;278:1084-6.
 Hepburn L, Azrael D, Miller M, Hemenway D. The effects of child access prevention laws on
unintentional child firearm fatalities, 1979-2000. J Trauma 2006;61:423-8.
 Webster DW, Vernick JS, Zeoli AM, Manganello J. Association between youth-focused
firearm laws and youth suicides. JAMA 2004;292:594-601.