The claim by conservative state lawmakers that a requirement for would-be gun purchasers to fire a weapon at a test range to get a license is a violation of the Second Amendment is little more than political hyperbole.
Earlier this week, in a 9-6 vote, a joint Senate-House panel rejected arguments of gun-rights advocates that the Maryland State Police’s “live-fire” regulations exceed the training requirements of license applicants set under a gun-control law that goes into effect Oct. 1.
Maryland’s gun-control legislation, passed soon after the mass murder of elementary schoolchildren in Connecticut, is among the strictest in the country. The law calls for a training requirement for the “safe operation and handling of a firearm,” though it does not specify how that training should take place.
It is on that point that opponents expect to make a challenge in the courts.
Del. Michael D. Smigiel Sr., R-Upper Shore, said the Maryland State Police interpreted the training provision too broadly. Both sides expect a legal battle.
To be sure, ownership of a firearm is an express right granted by the Second Amendment. The Framers, though, would have assumed that the people bearing arms knew how to use them, as indicated by the amendment’s reference to “a well regulated militia” — membership in which was generally mandatory in colonial times. The corollary is that a reasonable person can expect that someone untrained in the use of a firearm ought not to be able to own one.
Del. Doyle L. Niemann, a Prince George’s County Democrat, makes a strong case for why such training is necessary: “We don’t let people drive a car without them showing they can actually drive a car,” he said. “Why don’t we want people to know how to shoot a gun if we’re going to give them one?”
The recent shooting at the Washington Navy Yard should serve as yet another painful reminder (and there have been far too many of these in the past few years) that a more finely threaded net of regulations and checks, as opposed to the current porous one, on gun ownership is the right direction to go.
No one — not the Maryland State Police, the legislative committee that approved the live-fire test or Gov. Martin O’Malley — is saying that Marylanders don’t have a right to own guns. All they are saying is that if you want to own a deadly device, you had better know how to use it safely.
It’s really tough to imagine even the Founding Fathers quibbling with that.