Maryland lawmakers are set to begin the 2013 legislative session next week in Annapolis, and gun control is one topic on the minds of many representatives. State legislatures from all over the country will undoubtedly take a deep look into their respective gun laws following the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy, and Maryland is no exception. At least one representative, a democrat from Baltimore County, has already publically proposed a bill that would require active duty police officers to be deployed full time in all state public schools. There are currently school resources officers in many middle and high schools and a few elementary schools, but deploying these officers in public schools is not mandatory. School resource officers are sworn policemen and women that have arrest powers, and carry standard issue police firearms. The bill was submitted as emergency legislation, which means that if it passes it could go into effect as soon as February. It is obviously too early to tell if the bill will receive any opposition, but it seems as if the financial burden on local police jurisdictions would be the only obstacle to the bill's passage.
If the bill is passed in the next few weeks, it could cost Maryland's city and county police departments between 50 and 70 million dollars per year. This money would likely come from gambling revenue that is already earmarked for the state's schools. It seems logical that this bill will pass easily and the required funds will be made available. Many had been questioning why this type of law was not implicated pre Newtown, and now after the latest school tragedy the legislature is unlikely to go through the next 3 months without putting a gun control law on the books. Requiring police in every public school is not the only bill that will be proposed in the upcoming session. Many representatives have also come out in support of a state ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines. This bill may meet slightly more opposition than the school officer bill due to the constitutional issues that it may present. There may also be a bill introduced in Annapolis that attempts to keep all guns away from anyone with a dangerous mental illness, but this bill may have the same constitutional issues in addition to being difficult to implement.
Governor O'Malley has already publicly expressed support of gun control measures, and would likely consider signing each of these bills into law. The school officer bill would almost certainly meet the governor's approval and avoid judicial challenges. Although O'Malley has not reviewed this particular bill, he has expressed a desire to increase school security. Even if passed, the other two proposals would likely spend a fair amount of time going through the state appeals process and could even wind up in the Supreme Court. It will be interesting to see what other state legislatures decided to do in the next few months to address gun control. Maryland just may be a state that sets an example and lays the foundation for the strengthening gun control movement. It certainly would not be the first time our state has made national headlines for progressive laws in the past year.
Benjamin Herbst is a Maryland gun lawyer who specializes in all types of criminal defense cases. Contact Mr. Herbst at The Herbst Firm for a free consultation.
Delegate calls for police in elementary schools, gazette.net.