Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and Police Chief Jim Johnson called for state and federal action on gun safety measures at a press conference today.
Johnson is the Chair of the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence, a national group of law enforcement experts that have developed specific proposals to curtail gun violence in the United States.
As part of the effort to move legislation forward, County Executive Kamenetz wrote a letter to state and federal officials today requesting that they take immediate action on the gun safety measures proposed by national law enforcement groups, and the County Executive made it clear that he was ready to advocate for these changes in communities all across Baltimore County.
The text of the County Executive's letter is below:
December 17, 2012
An Open Letter to Maryland's Federal and State Elected Officials
My wife cried last night, watching the news on TV. She cried the day before. And it has been three days now since we spent the entire afternoon with our eyes glued to the TV screen, just like we did on 9/11. But this time, I wanted to do something more.
You see, I write this letter not just as the County Executive of Maryland's third largest county, but also as the father of two young boys. Like the parents in Newtown, I send them to school each morning filled with hopes and dreams and with the belief that they will be safe and secure and arrive home every afternoon to share the ups and downs of their day with mom and dad. For many families in Connecticut, such a dream was shattered this past Friday.
Police Chief Jim Johnson and I talk a lot about gun safety. We talked even more after a fifteen year old Perry Hall boy shot a student on the first day of school, and the Stemmers Run boy brought in a weapon in the second week of school. I tended to blame the family members who allowed disturbed children to have access to weapons. And I tend to partially blame the Newtown tragedy on the killer's mother for allowing him access to weapons.
But then I realized, why does any person need access to assault weapons and high capacity magazines? These are weapons of war, not for personal use.
The Chief and I fully recognize that there are no easy answers as to why this tragic pattern is being repeated with more and more regularity across America. Some point to the need for more treatment for mental illness. Others cite violent images in the media and the increasing violence in video games. Many will talk about the need for families to reconnect at the dinner table. Indeed, we need to take a comprehensive look at all of these cultural issues, but it if we are to be courageous in responding to these repeated tragedies, we must take immediate action to pursue reasonable gun safety legislation in our state and in our nation. I am prepared to help you make this important case.
Let's make something clear right from the beginning. Such a discussion is not an assault on the second amendment. It is an assault on assault weapons. The founding fathers granted Americans the right to bear arms, but like other rights in the Constitution, that right is not absolute, and is subject to reasonable limits. Law abiding citizens who enjoy hunting, target shooting, or feel the need to have a gun to protect their families have nothing to fear from legislation that stops the sale of high capacity assault weapons.
The Newtown experience should bring about a new attitude about gun violence. I encourage our state and federal officials to take immediate action to accomplish three things:
• Stop allowing exceptions to national background checks
• Stop the sale of military-grade assault weapons that can out-gun our police officers
• Stop the sale of high capacity magazines of more than ten rounds
Chief Johnson is the Chair of the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence. This coalition of law enforcement experts recommends strengthening of background checks, and a review of laws pertaining to assault rifles and high capacity weapons. I support their efforts.
And to all owners of firearms, know that in Baltimore County we will aggressively arrest and prosecute those who fail to properly secure their weapons in their own homes.
I have also requested a review of police security procedures for our Baltimore County Public Schools, and the Chief will be working with Superintendent Dance to make specific recommendations to me in the next few months.
The people of Baltimore County and the people all across the nation should not have access to the weapons of war. An assault rifle used to battle the Taliban has no place in Towson, Dundalk, or Catonsville. In our wildest dreams, it is impossible to imagine that the right to bear arms would mean that citizens could walk the streets with assault rifles issued to soldiers on the battlefield or weapons that utilize high capacity magazines.
This is not the time to be timid. This is the time for people of