BEL AIR, Md. - Harford County Executive David R. Craig said he has concerns about Maryland State Police’s plan which recently used around 200 front line employees at several state agencies to process a record backlog of firearm purchase applications.
Craig, a Republican candidate for governor, said this is the wrong approach that invites errors and security breaches.
Craig called on Gov. Martin O’Malley, Lt. Gov Anthony Brown and Attorney General Anthony Brown to develop a strategy that keeps sensitive information safe and utilizes sworn police officers to handle the backlog, which has come as Maryland prepares to institute stricter gun control laws beginning Oct. 1.
State police said they recently took on an “all hands on deck” data processing effort this past weekend designed to ensure both “that firearm purchase applications are processed as quickly as possible” and that firearms are not released to “prohibited persons.”
To accomplish this, data entry personnel, who are all state employees from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Department of Transportation, Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, Department of Human Resources and the Department of Juvenile Services assisted state police through Monday.
According to a state police news release, each agency had between 25 and 40 employees working each day to input information from the backlogged firearms purchase applications into electronic form.
State police said various steps were taken to protect personal information.
This includes ensuring that state police continue to conduct the background checks, making sure each of the employees involved in the data entry process is bound by a confidentiality agreement, using state employees that already deal with such confidential information in their regular duties and providing these employees information on encrypted discs that be destroyed after the data is entered for state police.
Still, Craig believes there is still plenty of room for error with this process and is worried the information will fall into the wrong hands.
“The people who are now entrusted with the sensitive task of processing background check information work at agencies that enable identity theft according to the state's own auditors. Even more troubling, one of these agencies encouraged criminal activity among prison inmates," said Craig, referring to the recent case in which correction officers enabled a criminal gang leader to run his operations at the state-owned Baltimore City Detention Center.
“The agency whose operational personnel are charged with abetting criminal activity is now privy to sensitive information on tens of thousands of law-abiding citizens.”
Craig is not the only lawmaker with concerns over this effort. Del. Kevin Kelly, an Allegany County Democrat, wrote Gansler seeking details on the plan.
The backlog has led to many issues, including gun purchasers being forced to wait months for their purchase as the state tackles the backlog. Some dealers have released the weapons despite the checks not clearing as state law allows for that after just a 7-day waiting period.
Alan Brody, a spokesman for Gansler, told ABC2 News last week that anyone that legally purchases a soon-to-be banned will still be able to receive, even if the background check does not get finalized until after the deadline.
However, Brody added, Gansler, in a letter of advice sent to Del. Mike Smigiel in August, said that all handgun purchases that aren’t cleared by the time the new laws go into effect will require a “handgun qualification license." This means in addition to a background checks, those purchasing a handgun must complete a firearm safety and proficiency course and be fingerprinted.
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