Cumberland Times-News

June 25, 2013

Kelly: Speed up Md. gun checks

Matthew Bieniek
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — Speeding up background checks for law-abiding citizens and easing the burden on gun dealers are the goals of Delegate Kevin Kelly, who is asking the Maryland State Police to look at options to quicken the process and cut a backlog that’s holding up the transfer of many types of regulated guns to their new owners.

“This is a major issue for gun dealers and we want to expedite the sales of guns to law-abiding citizens,” Kelly said.

Kelly wrote a letter to Col. Marcus L. Brown, superintendent of the Maryland State Police, on June 19 outlining his concerns.

Maryland is one of the states, Kelly wrote, which has agreed to be a point of contact for national background checks.

That means the Maryland State Police must do those checks as well as state checks, further slowing down the state police background check system.

Kelly thinks Maryland should withdraw as a point of contact and let federal firearms licensees go directly through the FBI for the national background checks. Kelly wants the state police’s limited resources deployed elsewhere.

Under applicable federal regulations, a licensed dealer may transfer a firearm to a purchaser if three days have elapsed since the federal background check information was submitted, as long as there has been no notification that the buyer is ineligible. Maryland law extends the waiting period to seven days.

The backlog is holding checks up for months, Kelly said.

This leaves firearms dealers in a bind — should they release the weapon to the new owner or not?

“For fear of incurring potential civil or criminal liability, many Maryland (licensed firearm dealers) ... have declined to complete transfers of regulated firearms unless and until the receive eligibility determinations” from the state police. That has resulted in long delays and some dealers have been releasing guns after the seven-day waiting period because of customer complaints, Kelly said.

“Maryland (firearms dealers) ... are damned if they do transfer, and damned if they don’t,” Kelly said, because of conflicting directives from the state police.

Kelly was joined in his concerns by other delegates, including Republican Mike McDermott from the Eastern Shore, who also sent a letter to Brown.

Current law requires a seven-day waiting period before a firearm may be transferred to another person, but the current waiting period has now exceeded 90 days and continues to grow in length, McDermott said in a press release.

Kelly said that he was recently contacted by a professional firefighter who had waited 93 days for his background check to go through.

“I have called upon Colonel Brown to assign adequate staff for the mission at hand and to work with dealers in providing reasonable discretion without the fear of incurring the wrath of this state”, said McDermott. “Law-abiding citizens are being denied their constitutional right to simply defend themselves on their own property by these unreasonable delays.”

Kelly has long opposed gun control measures and has the top “A+” rating available to legislators from the National Rifle Association.

Kelly is sending a copy of his letter to Brown to the 27,000 people who emailed him in opposition to the gun control legislation, which ultimately passed the General Assembly earlier this year.

Kelly said it was “tremendous” outpouring of opposition.  In comparison, Kelly said he received only about 150 emails on the gas tax and about the same number on the abolition of the death penalty.

While some of the emails were form letters, thousands were personally written.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.