A Chance to Reduce Crime: An Open Letter to Councilman Marks

By Fergal Mullally.

On Tuesday, January 21st, Baltimore County Council will vote on the SAFE Act. If passed, the SAFE Act will require gun retailers in Baltimore County to make reasonable efforts to properly secure their stock of weapons. Legislation about guns is always controversial, and sends people to running to their ideological corners. But I urge you to consider this legislation from outside of the partisan boxes we tend to put ourselves in. Fundamentally, this bill is not about gun rights, but about gun crime.

No one needs to be told that violent crime is a serious issue in Baltimore, and your record shows that the issue is a high priority for you. While there is no single solution to our violent crime problem, reducing the number of illegally held weapons on the streets is a necessary step.

Fifty-one of those illegally held weapons were stolen from gun shops here in Baltimore County in just the last two years. The US Department of Justice estimates that half of all weapons used in crime were stolen, so those 51 weapons will surely be used by criminals to commit more crimes. Hard-working, law abiding people of Baltimore will be the ones to suffer.

There are people who argue that the sole solution to gun crime is tougher sentencing laws. While jail time does have a part to play in reducing crime, there has never been a case where a long prison sentence has properly compensated a victim for the trauma of being mugged, shot, or having their house broken into. As Ben Franklin once wrote, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.

The SAFE Act weighs in at less than an ounce. It will require five things of a gun retailer.

  • An alarm system
  • A video recording system
  • Security screens over windows and doors (i.e the shutters stores use to cover their windows when the store is closed)
  • A physical barrier to prevent ram-raiders from using a vehicle to break into the store
  • A way of securing their inventory after hours (e.g. a steel cage) in a manner similar to jewelers or pharmacies.

If these requirements seem burdensome or expensive, bear in mind that the National Shooting Sports Foundation (a trade association for firearm retailers) has a list of best practice security recommendations that is stricter than the requirements of the SAFE Act. The Act’s protections are reasonable, proportionate, and inexpensive. It’s only surprising that some area gun shops don’t include them as a matter of course.

The SAFE Act will help reduce violent crime in Baltimore for the price of small and reasonable precautions already shouldered by responsible gun stores. You have consistently called for more action to be taken to reduce crime rates. Now is your chance. Please vote for the SAFE Act.

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