ANNAPOLIS – Legislation to ban the possession or use of bump stocks on guns drew heavy criticism Wednesday from gun-rights advocates who said the bill could be dangerous for weaker shooters and turn sportsmen into criminals while doing nothing to prevent mass shootings.
But supporters of the measure said banning the trigger enhancers would be a common-sense step toward preventing in Maryland the mass slaying that occurred last October at a Las Vegas country music concert, where police said they found the accessory on firearms used to kill 58 people.
Gov. Larry Hogan said at a news conference Wednesday that he supports the proposed ban.
Senate Bill 707 and House Bill 888 would make it a misdemeanor punishable by up to three years in prison and a $5,000 fine to possess, sell, buy or receive a “rapid fire trigger activator” and a felony punishable by between five and 20 years in prison to use an activator in a violent crime.
Shannon Alford, the National Rifle Association’s Maryland liaison, assailed the measure as “poorly drafted and overbroad.”
The legislation would prevent someone from replacing a 10-pound trigger with a 9-pound trigger, which is easier to fire when one’s life is on the line, Alford told the Senate and House judiciary committees at a joint hearing on the bill.
She said a ban on bump stocks would not prevent mass killings because people bent on murder are not dissuaded by legal restrictions.
“You can’t ban ingenuity and you cannot ban criminal mind mentality,” Alford said.
She added the Constitution’s Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms includes bump stocks, which many sportsmen enjoy using at firing ranges.
In response to comments that gun owners do not need bump stocks, Alford said, “It’s the Bill of Rights, not the Bill of Needs.”
But Del. David Moon, chief sponsor of the HB 888, said the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the constitutionality of Maryland’s ban on assault weapons in ruling that the Second Amendment does not apply to military-style weapons.
Permitting the possession of bump stocks would render the assault-weapons ban a nullity due to the rapid-fire capability, said Moon, D-Montgomery.
“This is just upholding the assault-weapons ban that we have in the state,” he added. “This bill is intended to preserve that status quo.”
But Michael Doherty, of the Maryland State Rifle & Pistol Association, returned to Alford’s comment that criminals will not be deterred by the ban.
“We cannot legislate morality,” Doherty told the committees. “The individual who caused the criminal act in Las Vegas is the problem.”
However, Kobi Little, head of the NAACP’s Maryland chapter, said the legislation does not go far enough – either in preventing mass killings or in discouraging violent crime generally.
“It’s just a Band-Aid and it’s a reactionary one at that,” Little told the legislators. “We live in a society that alienates people rather than creating a community. The bigger issue is, are you going to speak to your own humanity and our common humanity and take action to stop the violence?”