Handgun regulations: Shoot first, license later -- Gazette.Net


ANNAPOLIS — Those looking to buy a regulated firearm in Maryland after Oct. 1 will be required to shoot one first.

Regulations approved Monday will require applicants for a handgun license to shoot one live round first, as part of mandated training.

Specifically, the regulations require applicants for a Handgun Qualification License have firearms safety training, “including a practice component in which the applicant safely fires at least one round of live ammunition.”

Maryland’s new gun law requires background checks, fingerprinting and a licensing fee for everyone purchasing regulated firearms — a category that includes handguns but not shotguns or hunting rifles.

The law also bans about 40 semi-automatic rifles deemed to be “assault weapons” and magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. It also restricts gun ownership by certain people with a history of mental illness.

The regulations were approved by the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review. A panel that includes senators and delegates, AELR is tasked with determining if regulations written by the executive branch are consistent with a new law.

The lion’s share of the new regulations went uncontested at a Monday’s meeting. However, about six lawmakers objected to a provision that required applicants to fire a weapon first.

Del. Michael D. Smigiel Sr. (R-Dist. 36) of Chesapeake City said not everyone has easy access to a shooting range. After much debate during the 2013 General Assembly session, lawmakers deliberately struck the provision requiring applicants to shoot first, he said.

Del. Kathleen M. Dumais (D-Dist. 15) of Rockville disagreed.

Dumais said lawmakers changed the wording to specify that the training include an orientation component to demonstrate safe operation and handling of the weapon, as opposed to showing proficiency with the weapon, which was the original language. Proficiency is required for those seeking a permit to carry a handgun.

When it comes to defining the orientation required by the law, Dumais said it is not a stretch for Maryland State Police to include firing a live round.

Sean Thornton, senior training program coordinator with the National Rifle Association, testified that shooting one round does not demonstrate the knowledge needed to safely operate a handgun. But Thornton also said trainers can get a clear picture of someone’s ability to safely shoot without them firing a live shot.

Despite repeated testimony to remove the requirement, a nine-member majority of the committee present Monday passed it into regulation.

Others who testified questioned the $50 application fee — the maximum allowed under the law — the state will collect and a requirement to provide a Social Security number on the application. Both will be part of the new regulations.