General Assembly passes bill to prohibit carrying guns in sensitive areas like preschools and polling places
The Maryland Senate voted Monday evening on a major piece of gun legislation that now heads to the desk of Gov. Wes Moore (D) for his signature.
The 31-16 vote on Senate Bill 1, if signed into law, would prohibit the open carry of guns in Maryland and restrict where firearms can be carried to prohibit specific locations such as preschools, stadiums, government buildings and polling places.
The bill included several amendments added in the House of Delegates. One amendment approved Monday clarifies that those exempted from the wear and carry permit law includes security guards, correctional officers and employees of an armored car company.
Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher (D-Montgomery), vice chair of the Judicial Proceedings Committee and sponsor of the legislation, has said the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in a case challenging New York law allows Maryland to assess “sensitive places” where firearms can be carried.
Senate Minority Whip Justin Ready (R-Carroll), who voted against the legislation, said Monday it will “be a court battle for over constitutionality.”
Several hours before the Senate vote, the House voted 93-42 to approve the measure.
Prior to the House vote, delegates debated the measure for more than two hours Monday afternoon.
Republicans presented four amendments on the House floor, but all were soundly rejected by the Democratic majority.
The debate became intense when Del. Aaron Kaufman (D-Montgomery) made a motion to House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) to limit debate on the bill and prohibit additional amendments.
Del. Robert B. Long (R-Baltimore County), who tried to speak ahead of Kaufman, said he planned to introduce three additional amendments.
Del. Lauren Arikan (R-Harford), who voted against the measure, characterized the gun debate as a “personal attack on a lot of us who care deeply about this issue. It is a de facto ban on the carry of firearms in the state of Maryland. I have a problem with our debate being cut off. I think it’s really inappropriate.”
House Majority Leader Marc Korman (D-Montgomery) said Kaufman’s motion was part of the chamber’s rules and was in order.
“Please do not disparage folks for making use of our rules. Many of you make use of our rules all the time to make your points. Others are allowed to use the rules for their purposes,” Korman said.
Before the vote to grant final approval on the legislation, several delegates stood up to explain their vote.
Del. Caylin Young (D-Baltimore City) voted in support of the bill, but disagreed with the provision that legal gun owners would be prohibited from shopping at some businesses unless property owners give permission to carry firearms.
“This bill does need to pass because there are good portions of it,” he said. “But when we talk about restricting individuals from being able to walk into businesses, we’re talking about restricting the people in my district who are law-abiding, who live in crime-infested communities…”
Speaker Pro Tem Sheree Sample-Hughes (D-Lower Shore), who voted against the bill, expressed concern about the same provision.
“I wish that we had the signage posted that would say where people can’t bring their guns versus the opposite,” said Sample-Hughes, who did vote in support of the other major gun legislation, House Bill 824 sponsored by Del. Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City), which was approved Saturday. “I don’t want to see unintended consequences of law-abiding citizens being arrested or harmed unnecessarily.”
The vote was also personal.
“I’m a mother of a Black son that’s in the police academy and I live on the Eastern Shore. I’ve got to be mindful of the safety of my family,” she said. “When you deal with gun legislation, people don’t take it lightly. Safety for me is a priority.”
A few hours later, the Senate agreed with the House amendments, sending the bill to the governor.
Sentencing bill stalled
Among the bills that didn’t move forward at the end of session were House Bill 135, a patchwork measure that had been amended in each chamber to ultimately include changes for criminal sentencing for both drug and gun crimes.
The bill would have made changes to the state’s drug kingpin and volume dealer statutes in light of cannabis legalization, established parity for pre-2017 crack and cocaine charges, and raised several gun crimes, including trafficking, from misdemeanors to felonies.
The House Judiciary Committee, in an informal meeting, had voted 13-7 in the final hour of the General Assembly session to agree with Senate amendments to the bill. But House Bill 135 was one of several caught up in a chaotic end to the House floor session, dying without final consideration by the whole chamber.