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Gun Shop Security Bill Passes Baltimore County Council

Baltimore County

Gun shop owners in Baltimore County will have to make their stores more secure under controversial legislation passed Tuesday night by the county council. WYPR’s  Baltimore County reporter John Lee joined Morning Edition Host Nathan Sterner to give the details.

Sterner: John, this legislation had been in doubt. How was it able to get through the county council last night?

Lee: There had been concern that county executive Johnny Olszewski’s legislation would put too much of a burden on gun shop owners, and could drive some out of business. Under the legislation, Gun shops will have to have outside physical barriers to help prevent burglars from crashing cars into stores to get the weapons. Gun store owners also will need to put firearms in secure locations like a cage or a locked room at night. They will need to have video surveillance and an alarm.

So the council last night made some changes to make the proposal more palatable.

For instance, gun shop owners will not have to pay a fee to apply for the license they would need. They will be given more time to comply, 60 days rather than 30 days. And no interest loans and matching grants up to $10,000 may be made available. Democratic Councilman Julian Jones went along with that but he didn’t sound very happy about it.

Jones: “I don’t feel very comfortable at all giving away taxpayer money to one segment or somebody. But I understand we don’t want to put people out of business.

Lee: The legislation passed by a 6-1 vote with the amendments.

Sterner: There are three Republicans on the council. Republicans are usually big supporters of gun rights. But two of them voted for the legislation putting restrictions on gun store owners. What did they have to say about that?

Lee: Well the one no vote was Republican Todd Crandell who represents the conservative east side of the county. Republican Wade Kach, who represents the rural, middle part of the county said he is proud of his “A” rating from the National Rifle Association. Kach said the original legislation would have driven some gun shop owners out of business.

Kach: “Baltimore County would have been known as a county where gun shops really aren’t welcome.”

Lee: But with the amendments Kach was able to vote for the bill, as did fellow Republican David Marks. He blamed a couple of the gun store owners in the county who refused to secure their shops for making the county regulate all of the stores.

Marks: “It is an unfortunate fact that responsible gun retailers will now have to bear the burden because a few businesses did not enact common sense  improvements.”

Lee: Marks said both sides in this debate had a point. On one hand, until now the county had no way to require a gun retailer to make improvements. But Marks said there are larger factors driving crime, like a lax criminal justice system and what Marks called an indefensible law enforcement record in Baltimore City that is impacting Baltimore County

Sterner: Did the county executive have anything to say following the passage?

Lee: He did. Olszewski released a statement saying the legislation will help keep stolen guns out of the hands of violent criminals.

And by the way, Olszewski Wednesday morning is planning to announce  a public safety plan to combat violent crime

And two other bits of housekeeping from Tuesday night’s meeting. The council unanimously approved hiring Kelly Madigan to be the county’s first ethics director. And several members of the council want to change the fact that the council holds its work sessions in the middle of the day. They introduced a resolution to move those meetings to the evening so more people can attend. The council will take that up at one of those 2 pm work sessions, on January 28.

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County.
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