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From the Desk of
County Commissioner Blaine Young

(2/2013) Every few years in this country some sick, twisted person commits an unspeakable act of violence that results in multiple deaths. The latest is the horrific school shooting in Connecticut. I donít know if I have ever been so shaken and disturbed by a news report than I was when I heard of this tragedy. As the father of two school-aged boys, my heart goes out to the parents who lost their children. It is every parentís nightmare, and for far too many people in Connecticut, they cannot end the bad dream by waking up. It will live with them forever.

The fact that this latest incident has led to a renewed and invigorated discussion about legislative initiatives on firearms is not necessarily a bad thing. It will be unfortunate if it distracts us from the real issue, which is how do we keep weapons out of the hands of people who cannot be trusted with them. That is a discussion that I welcome, and I am looking forward to that debate.

Some of the more far-reaching proposals would go way beyond initiatives to better screen purchasers and owners of guns, and would clearly infringe on our Second Amendment rights. We can only hope that the jerk of the knee in this instance does not take us into unconstitutional areas, which will only serve to continue to splinter our society into polarized interest groups, rather than forming a legislative package that we can all get behind.

The things Iím talking about that would be appropriate and may actually do some good are better screening of would-be gun purchasers, and a more thorough background check prior to releasing a handgun into someoneís possession. I am a proud lifetime member of the NRA and member of the Monocacy Pistol Club, and I enjoy shooting recreationally and competitively. But before I purchase my next gun, if some responsible arm of government wants to check me out a little further, I would have no problem with it. If that means I have to wait a few days before putting my new firearm in the case, affixing the trigger lock and taking it home, thatís okay with me. Iím not in any big hurry.

And if that also means closing or at least tightening the so-called "gun show loophole" and requiring background checks for purchasers at gun shows, that too would be okay with me. For the most part, barring extenuating circumstances, I donít see the need for a rushed transaction when it comes to selling and purchasing a handgun. A few days wait to make sure everything is in order should not cause great hardship. And if there are situations where the wait would be detrimental or perhaps even dangerous to a prospective purchaser, then we can craft an exception for those few circumstances.

But if you are going to check us out more thoroughly before we are allowed to purchase a weapon, and if we pass the background check, then I think that should be it. Then we should be a "shall" carry state, provided we pass our background checks. That would mean that people who are mentally ill or otherwise not to be trusted with a firearm, but who do manage to obtain one illegally, would not have the advantage on the rest of us, and we would be able to defend ourselves. So, if you are going to check us out, and we survive your examination, then trust us to carry our weapon and use it responsibly. It is my firm belief that Ė if you meet those criteria Ė you should have the right to obtain a permit to safely and responsibly carry a firearm. In District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court held that in areas under federal jurisdiction (such as Washington, D.C.), the federal government could not enact and enforce an outright ban against the possession of handguns. In 2010 in the McDonald v. Chicago case, that protection was extended to residents of the 50 states. We now have a very clear indication that you and I, as law-abiding citizens, have the right to own and keep a handgun for our personal protection.

However, in many situations that does not go far enough. We sometimes find ourselves in a situation where the responsible carrying of a weapon outside of the home would make us feel a whole lot safer. Now, I know thatís not for everyone. Many people are rightfully wary and too frightened to carry a firearm because of the unintended injuries it may cause. But in the hands of a fully trained, responsible owner, a handgun can be an important means for self-preservation and protection of oneís family in these increasingly violent times that we have seen due to the downturn in the economy.

That seems like a fair trade.

Of course here in Maryland, modest suggestions like those I have set forth above are not good enough for our liberal Democrat Governor, Martin OíMalley. He wants to go much further and take weapons away from those of us who clearly can be trusted to own and possess them. For example, he wants to ban certain categories of rifles, commonly known as "assault weapons." In some instances, one personís assault weapon is another personís hunting rifle. The fact that a rifle can be operated in a semi-automatic mode does not necessarily make it a weapon that can be used only against people. We need to be very careful about classifying weapons, especially if we were only going to allow them to be sold to people who pass a vigorous background examination.

One thing that really bothers me is the Governorís suggestion that all magazines, or "clips" be limited to no more than 10 rounds. The standard issue 9-millimeter semi-automatic pistols favored by most law enforcement, and by many competitive shooters, are designed for a standard 15 round clip. Should it be illegal to utilize the magazine for which a legal handgun was designed? I donít think so. Letís use a little common sense on this one.

Of course the fact that Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York has already (and astonishingly quickly) passed the toughest gun control law in recent memory, I am sure it has nothing to do with our Governorís suggestions. The fact that Governor Cuomo is widely considered to be one of Martin OíMalleyís chief competitors for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 is a mere coincidence. Certainly our Governor is looking out only for our safety and is not proposing gun legislation for political reasons. He wouldnít do that, would he?

In short, letís use a little common sense when it comes to the discussion about firearms. The Second Amendment to the Constitution is one of our cherished components of the Bill of Rights. We must be careful not to go too far, for if we do, the Supreme Court will remind us that the Constitution is not there for us to trifle with, but instead is there for us to respect. I hope our government, especially here in Maryland, will keep that in mind.

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