By Mary T Mulligan
In wake of the shootings in Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Conn., Maryland’s General Assembly passed one of the strictest gun control laws in the nation.
The legislation would place a 10-bullet limit on weapon magazines, ban 45 different assault weapons, and require citizens who buy a handgun to submit fingerprints to The Maryland State Police. Only five other states have similar laws regarding fingerprinting of handgun owners.
As of press time for The Hawk, the bill was still waiting for Governor Martin O’Malley’s expected signature.
Although the laws will not be fully implemented till October 2013, citizens are already reacting to the news.
Jeff Morgan, criminal justice professor and head of the Administration of Justice Club, said he was skeptical about the impact of the new laws. He responded to a series of emailed questions regarding the issue.
“I do not foresee this affecting the honest, rule following men and women who purchase firearms but see it as one more cost added to owning a gun,” Morgan wrote.
HCC Police Officer Steve Scalf, who formerly served with the Frederick Police Department, said “I would imagine they’re going to exempt law enforcement [from the 10 round magazine limits].”
Maryland already prohibits straw purchasing of firearms, but some believe the punishments should be more severe for those who are caught doing so.
“My thoughts would be to strengthen the sanctions/penalties for those individuals identified, charged and convicted for engaging in straw purchases of firearms,” Morgan, who served the Hagerstown Police Department for 24 years, retiring with the rank of sergeant.
When asked about assault weapons ban, an HCC student who wished to remain anonymous said he thought more controls were unnecessary.
“After 9/11, we did not ban airplanes just because a group of people used them for an undesigned purpose. We imposed stricter searches on the people that boarded the planes,” he said.
The same student was asked about the magazine capacity limit and said “In Maryland, you can only hunt with eight rounds in a magazine, but for target practice it is nice to have a higher capacity magazine in order to not have to reload as much”.
Maryland’s new gun laws also address the concern of mentally ill patients obtaining firearms. “Personally I do not believe it is the weapon that we should fear. People with mental issues, propensity toward violence, perhaps even addiction issues involving alcohol and drugs should be of a bigger concern”, said Morgan.
Most students say they would never expect a massacre, such as the one that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut this past December, to happen in Hagerstown, even without strict gun laws. Ted Kaiser, Treasurer of the Student Government Association, said that he feels very safe on campus although “on every campus there is a possibility of a massacre happening”.
An additional concern is how students and faculty prepare for life-threatening events. In nearly all elementary, middle, and high schools, students practice for fires, earthquakes, and other natural disasters. Morgan noted “training for an active shooter within our school or building should be done on a regular basis like fire drills”.
The HCC police officers already perform annual drills for emergencies, but “it would be nice to include both faculty and students” in those drills, said Scalf.
“We have a very safe environment and a very safe campus. I hope that nothing ever does happen here. I’d like to believe that the probability [for a massacre happening] is low, but you must be prepared. All it takes is one time, one person,” he said.
If students witness suspicious activity, they are encouraged to contact the HCC Police Office first at the number listed, then immediately call 911. “The college has the ability to send text message alerts out”, said Scalf.
Students are encouraged also to sign up for these emergency alerts by logging onto the HCC website.
• Immediately report any suspicious activity on campus.
• (List in box) – HCC Police Office number 240-500-2308 or call #2308 from any on-campus phone.
• Sign up for HCC text emergency alerts.
• Familiarize yourself with safe areas on campus – buildings or rooms without windows.