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WAPO- October 2nd 1972,”Maryland Gun [Wear and Carry] Law Has Caused Little Stir in the First Six Months”

Throwback to 1972, six months after Governor Mandel signed MD’s Wear and Carry permit scheme, and enacted a Stop and Frisk gun search law.

The Washington Post
Oct 2, 1972
Page C1

Maryland Gun Law Has Caused Little Stir in First 6 Months
By Douglas Watson
Washington Post Staff Writer

A 45-year-old white man who says he’s afraid of being robbed while carrying money on the job is the typical applicant for a permit to carry a pistol under Maryland’s new handgun permit law.

A check of the 4,800 permit applications now before the state police shows that just one in every 40 applicants is a woman and only about one in seven is black.

A look at the situation six months after the law was enacted as emergency legislation amid bitter controversy shows:

• Three of every four applications have been approved, although the police have fallen well behind in checking out each applicant within 60 days as required by law.

• There have been no reported complaints from civil libertarians about the law’s controversial stop and frisk provisions; police report just 254 cases of using the stop and frisk powers.

• There has been a 10 per cent drop in statewide handgun sales, perhaps, police say, because many people misunderstand the law.

Maryland’s handgun permit law was proposed by Gov. Marvin Mandel last winter after several persons were shot to death in Baltimore.

The law was enacted March 27, and took effect immediately despite opposition from the gun lobby, civil libertarians and many black leaders in Baltimore, who charged the law infringed or threatened to infringe individual rights.

However, state police said in recent interviews that in 161 of the 254 stop and frisk instances, persons were arrested for illegally carrying a handgun. They say this is a strong indication that police generally have had good reason to frisk suspected violators of the law and that a lot of people are carrying guns illegally,

“The honest people are still buying handguns and the crooks are still stealing them: It’s that simple,” said a Suitland gun dealer while noting some drop in his handgun sales.

Police officials in several Maryland jurisdictions said last week they don’t have enough information yet to be able to say whether the law has had any effect on crime, but they don’t think it has. Others said that the law at least has meant 161 fewer guns are on the street.

“The law isn’t doing what its proponents had claimed it would do” to cut crime, said J. Robert Esher, legislative chairman of the Maryland-D.C. Rifle and Pistol Association, a leading opponent of the handgun bill before its enactment.

There were 95 murders reported to state law enforcement officials during April, May and June, down from 122 murders during the same three-month period last year. But aggravated assaults by gun for the same period increased from 593 to 714.

Of the 4,800 applications received, state police had acted on only 1,727 by Sept. 22. About three-fourths, 1,323, were approved, while 404 were rejected. Police say that an expected influx in applications could make the average waiting period even longer than the present 90 to 100 days.

The largest number of applicants have, come from the Baltimore metropolitan area, with 1,183 from Baltimore County and 1,107 from Baltimore City. State police have received 455 applications from Prince George’s County residents, proportionately more than the 194 submitted by Montgomery County residents.

Last Monday, the state police department’s handgun permits unit received applications from 42 persons wanting permission to carry a gun, including a private detective, one merchant, three salesmen, three contractors, and a funeral director. The largest group by far were 17 security guards and special policemen.

The law does not require a handgun permit be obtained by policemen or by members of the armed forces when on duty.

A permit also is not needed by persons keeping a gun in their own home or on their property or business if the business is owned by the individual. It enables supervisory employees to have handguns in business establishments if authorized by the owner.

The law further makes it unnecessary to have a permit in order to take a handgun between the store where it was bought and a purchaser’s home, or to a repair shop, or between a gun owner’s home and place of business if be owns the business.

The law also exempts antique gun collectors and people taking a unloaded and enclosed handgun to target practice or to a shooting event.

Anyone charged with carrying a handgun in Maryland contrary to the law is subject to a possible $1,000 fine or sentence of up to three years. In addition, the law establishes a mandatory, minimum five-year sentence for anyone convicted of committing, a crime with a handgun.

Those seeking a handgun permit may obtain an application from any state police station. The confidential application must be returned notarized with three photographs of the applicant and a nonrefundable $15 fee. Fingerprints are taken when the application is then submitted.

About a dozen persons have been charged with per-jury–a crime; that can result in up to 10 years in jail and loss of voting rights— because they allegedly lied on their sworn applications that they didn’t have criminal records, apparently thinking the Maryland state police wouldn’t check out-of-state.

The law bars handgun permits for persons who have been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor for which the sentence was more than a year, as well as to those who have been in juvenile correctional institutions for/more than a year within the past 10 years.

Also barred from obtaining permits is anyone under 21 and anyone convicted of a drug offense.

One applicant being charged with perjury had been convicted in New Jersey of several counts of larceny and housebreaking, while another had been an inmate or the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kan.

Det. Sgt. Rocco Gabriel,, head of the state police-department’s handgun permit unit, said the most frequent reason applicants have been rejected is that they have not met the law’s requirement that they show a “good and substantial reason” for carrying a handgun.

Gabriel said the next most common reason for rejection is that applicants have shown instability or “a propensity for violence” that the law says is a reason for denying a permit.

The law also states that a person cannot qualify unless he considers a handgun “necessary as a reasonable precaution against apprehended danger.”

Thus, Gabriel said someone frightened about carrying $50 with him might qualify to carry a handgun, while another person who calmly carrier a much larger amount of money would not. He added that one 6-foot-9, 350-pound applicant said he needed to carry a handgun because he’s “scared to death.”

Gabriel said that in the final analysis with questionable applications, the state police make a subjective judgment whether a person should be allowed to walk around the streets with a handgun. So far, he said while knocking on wood, none of those approved have been convicted of crime.

Gabriel, a veteran policeman, said the job of reviewing handgun permit applications has revealed, “There are a lot; more people carrying guns than I realized were carrying guns.”

Of the 404 persons who have been denied permits, more, than 200 have appealed to a five-member civilian Handgun. Permit Review Board – which can reverse the state police department’s decision but has only done, so in four of 125 cases it has acted upon.

Don Westcott, the board’s chairman, said that the majority of those granted handgun permits have had restrictions imposed on them limiting either the time or place the guns can be carried.

An amendment to the law that Westcott had proposed would exempt collectors of guns made after 1898, antique gun collectors already being exempted. Another would require applicants to demonstrate that they can properly fire and handle a handgun.

Esher, of the Maryland-D.C. Rifle and Pistol Association, said he would like to see amendments -that would allow hikers and fishermen to carry handguns if they wish, and to give persons who are caught carrying handguns without a permit a chance to justify their action in court. Esher added, however, he’s not optimistic about getting the law amended.

The majority of the frisks made under the law have occurred in Baltimore City, which last year had 323 murders, the fifth highest homicide rate in the nation (Washington was third).

Police who have frisked people suspected of illegally carrying handguns report that in most instances they acted because someone told them the individual was carrying a gun or because they noticed a bulging pocket or suspicious behavior.

John C. Roemer III, executive director of Maryland’s branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, said he has been surprised that his organization hasn’t received a single complaint about alleged police abuse since the law was enacted.

An aide to Rep. Parron Mitchell (D-Md.) Baltimore’s, black congressman and a staunch foe of the law when it was being debated, said his office has received few, if any, complaints about abuses, but Mitchell remains unhappy with the law.

As for the law’s effect on crime, Baltimore County Police Major Charles Rockenbaugh said, “We have not experienced any appreciable change due to the new gun law.” Spokesmen for the Montgomery County police and Baltimore City state’s attorney’s office concurred.

There were 27,337 handgun sales last year through registered dealers in Maryland. State police expect that sales this year will be about 2,000 less, which Gabriel and gun dealers interviewed said was apparently due to public misunderstanding of the permit law.

“It’s really put a dent into our sales,”‘ said an Annapolis gun dealer.

Under the handgun law. security guards, special policemen and private detectives who had been exempted from needing to have a permit under the old law were given until next March 27 to obtain a permit.

There are more than 10,000 security guards, 2,500 special police and about 1,000 private detectives in the state, Gabriel said. Most of them will be seeking permits in the next six months, threatening to lengthen the state police’s present applicant backlog.

Walter Kolon, general manager for Wells Fargo Security Guard Service’s local office, said that unless the permit processing is quickened, a long wait for permits by employees of private security firms could be very damaging to them and their companies. He said 15 Wells Fargo employees have applied for permits and are still waiting for them.

It takes the state police an. average of three to four hours to investigate each applicant, a job that keeps one officer at both the Rockville and Forestville state police barracks busy full time. In Baltimore City seven troopers work full-time checking applicants.

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