Baltimore forum takes aim at guns in Maryland -- Gazette.Net


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BALTIMORE — Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks recalled a man who telephoned a former employer that he intended to return to kill everyone.

When police arrived at his home, it was filled with firearms. And the man had on a T-shirt that read, “Guns don’t kill people. I do,” Alsobrooks said at Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler’s forum on gun violence Monday. The two-hour event, attended by about 60 people, was conducted at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law’s Westminster Hall.

Maryland is one of only seven states that does not have legislation to charge people for making threats of mass violence, so in the end he could only be charged with telephone misuse, Alsobrooks said.

Maryland police officials, prosecutors and citizens attended Monday’s event in the aftermath of the December school massacre in Newtown, Conn., that took the lives of 20 students and six adults before the gunman committed suicide.

Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said “common-sense solutions” to the gun violence are needed. Manger was one of 12 police chiefs, including the Newton chief, who met with President Barack Obama after the school massacre to discuss possible remedies.

Manger supports a return to a ban on assault rifles but said he does not want the political discussion to get hung up on that and miss the opportunity to improve background checks on gun buyers.

Police are doing more to target those who commit crimes with guns in order to get the weapons off the street, said Maj. Dan Lioi, commander of the Baltimore Police Department’s Intelligence Unit and the Gun Trace Task Force.

Elisabeth Setzler of Damascus, a mother and PTA volunteer who said she attended the forum out of concerns about gun violence, said she also worries about people who are armed legally and have concealed carry permits.

Those people could have their guns taken from them and the weapon used against others, or in a crisis they could shoot the wrong person, Setzler said. Referring to a point Manger made earlier in the forum, Setzler said police officers are trained to know when to shoot and when not to shoot, while those with concealed weapons permits are not.

“The only person he is protecting is behind the barrel of the gun,” she said.

Gansler said he called the conference to discuss problems and potential solutions.

“This is an ‘all hands on deck’ moment,” Gansler said. “From the tragedy in Newtown to the all-too-frequent tragic gun violence in Maryland, we see that more must be done to curb the damage done by illegal guns and keep guns away from those who shouldn’t have them.”

The forum was billed as a “conversation” among law enforcement officials and community leaders to come up with solutions.

Nearly 40 bills have been introduced this legislative session — from Gov. Martin O’Malley’s proposal to require a license for people to buy handguns to a proposal to allow county school boards to decide whether to arm school personnel.

Manger said he thinks O’Malley’s proposal is a good idea, but he does not believe schools should arm teachers because police officers go through extensive training to know when to shoot or not shoot. More schools should have school resource officers such as those in about half of Montgomery County’s high schools and middle schools, but just adding guns to schools will make the students less safe, he said.

“I’m hopeful common sense can prevail at some point,” Manger said.

cford@gazette.net