October 20, 1999
Frank Mann, 410-576-6357
Report Calls for Unprecedented Restriction on Handguns; Seeks to
End Most Handgun Ownership
the six-month anniversary of the murders at Columbine High School,
Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. today took the first bold
step toward making Maryland the most handgun-free state in the country.
Through the release of his report, A Farewell to Arms: The Solution
to Gun Violence in America, Attorney General Curran outlined
the first step toward making Maryland the first state in the nation
to outlaw handgun ownership except in very limited circumstances.
Curran’s report contains a three-part plan to reach his goal of
restricting the sale and possession of handguns to only those who
can demonstrate a legitimate law enforcement purpose or those who
can guarantee their guns will be used only in regulated sporting
is time to stop kidding ourselves," Curran said. "Guns beget violence
and violence simply begets more guns. If we don’t change the culture
in this country and admit to ourselves that guns are costing us
too much in terms of deaths, dollars, and other untold suffering,
we are never going to reverse this epidemic of violence."
the backdrop of an array of illegal handguns confiscated recently
by the Baltimore City and Montgomery County police departments,
Curran explained that Congress’ tortured attempt to require background
checks at gun shows in the aftermath of the Columbine massacre was
the last straw for him.
detailed in the report, over 35,000 people die every year from firearms,
and another 100,000 are injured. An average of twelve children are
killed with a gun every day. In Maryland, more people die from firearms
than motor vehicle accidents - well over 700 a year. In 1996, more
than twice as many Marylanders were murdered by handgun than in
Canada, Germany, Great Britain , Japan, Australia and New Zealand
combined. Nine out of ten murders of children worldwide occur in
the United States.
emphasized that contrary to popular perception, the majority of
firearm-related deaths are not homicides, but suicides. "Our tragedy
of gun violence is not just a problem of law enforcement, but also
of public health and consumer protection," he cautioned. "Until
we recognize that the horrific headlines about mass shootings in
our schools and churches are only part of the story, we will not
stop all the dying."
also stated that in addition to the human suffering from gun violence,
we pay dearly in economic terms. Medical costs range from $2.3 to
$4 billion annually, of which taxpayers pay about 67%. Estimates
of total costs, including lost productivity, pain and suffering,
and criminal justice resources, range between $20 and $112 billion.
have added up these costs - the premature deaths of too many children,
the teenagers consigned forever to wheelchairs, the lonely senior
citizens taking their lives in moments of anguish, the billions
of dollars we could be spending elsewhere - and these costs are
too great. In a country of 270 million people and more than 200
million guns, we must finally put the brakes on. We cannot confiscate
the handguns people already own, but there must be a moment in history
where we say, ‘no more.’"
three-step blueprint to close the door on widespread handgun ownership
proposes several interim measures designed to reduce specific categories
of firearm death and injury. To reduce unintentional shootings,
teen suicides, and criminal assaults with stolen guns, Curran calls
for health and safety regulation of handguns at the state and federal
levels, including Governor Glendening’s "smart gun" initiative.
Congress should put firearms under the jurisdiction of the Consumer
Product Safety Commission, and Maryland should impose health and
safety regulations through either legislation or Handgun Roster
Board regulations. Curran intends to present his report to the Governor’s
Task Force on Child-Proof Guns on November 8 in College Park, Maryland.
is beyond absurd that we impose safety standards on everything from
toys to toothpaste, while we allow handguns to be made any old way
manufacturers decide is profitable," Curran stated. "We must insist
that guns be as safe as possible, with child-proofing devices, smart
gun technology, warning indicators that guns are loaded, and any
other safety device the gun industry’s formidable powers of innovation
can produce. If the gun companies can make handguns ever more lethal,
so guns can kill more people more efficiently, they can certainly
make handguns safer. To this end, I intend to fully support the
Governor’s "smart gun" initiative, and I applaud him for his leadership."
also appeals to the General Assembly to reinstate strict liability
against the gun industry so that it may be held accountable in Maryland
courts for the harms its products have caused. By ensuring that
Marylanders are able to join the surge of lawsuits against the gun
industry springing up around the country, Curran explained, "we
will provide manufacturers incentive to make guns safer and to help
keep them out of the hands of criminals. We will also keep Maryland
from becoming a safe haven for unsafe guns the industry dares not
market elsewhere." Curran also revealed that he is looking into
bringing a lawsuit against the industry, including investigating
whether the industry may be violating consumer protection laws in
marketing guns to children or in other advertising practices.
the second part of his blueprint, Curran proposes several measures
to assist law enforcement efforts to reduce criminal homicides and
firearm injury. Pointing out the inconsistency of allowing people
to own handguns simply on their own "say-so" that they are mentally
stable and non-violent, while we do extensive investigations of
people who want a permit to carry a handgun, Curran calls for fingerprint
licensing and training of everyone wishing to own a gun. To obtain
a license, people should be found, on the basis of an investigation,
not to have a "propensity for violence," and they should provide
evidence of being qualified and trained in the use of handguns.
require more of people wishing to drive a car than we do of those
owning a firearm," Curran stated. "The law now permits a person
with a known propensity for violence or mental instability and no
experience whatsoever in operating a handgun to walk into a store
and, as long as he has no criminal record, to take a handgun home.
It is no wonder so many people die."
the final step of his three-part plan, Curran calls for a change
in our "gun culture." Like attitudes toward smoking and wearing
seatbelts have undergone radical change, so too must people begin
to view handgun ownership as dangerous behavior. Curran points out
that despite being overrun with 70 million handguns in this country,
only a minority - 16% - own all these guns which are causing so
should we all endanger ourselves and our children every time we
go into a movie theater or a hotel lobby where people are permitted
to carry guns?" Curran asks. "What about when your child plays at
a neighbor’s house, where a handgun is hidden in the upstairs closet?
We must make people realize that they no longer want to tolerate
put teeth in this public information campaign, Curran asks the General
Assembly to take the lead and make guns in public accommodations
illegal. Second, he calls upon everyone else - educators, law enforcement,
business owners, health care professionals, and especially parents
- to begin the effort to change people’s minds about how far they
are willing to endanger themselves by tolerating the choice of others
to have a handgun. "We must get people talking to each other about
the dangers of guns and gun ownership. That is how attitudes change,"
Curran demands that our ultimate goal be to outlaw handgun ownership
except for those with demonstrated law enforcement and recreational
purposes. "Only by turning off the spigot will we really end this
nightmare," he said. "It cannot happen overnight. But I look to
a time when - ten, twenty, thirty years from now - people will look
back and say, ‘That is the moment when they turned it around - the
violence began to stop.’"