Baltimore County leaders will introduce a bill next month to create a mandatory licensing scheme for firearms dealers and gun shows.
To obtain a license under what’s being called the Secure All Firearms Effectively (SAFE) Act, store owners and gun show organizers would have to install county-approved security measures.
“We must do whatever we can to keep our communities safe, and that includes doing more to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals,” said Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski in a press release.
“This bill is a straightforward solution to ensure that we keep stolen weapons off our streets and out of our communities,” he added.
The list of requirements include:
Under the plan, a temporary gun show must have a security plan approved by the Chief of Police that includes an alarm system, video surveillance and live security guard coverage when the show is closed and establishments must:
- Be monitored at all times by an alarm system registered with the county and a video system.
- Include the following physical security elements:
- Bollards or another physical barrier to prevent vehicle intrusion into the building; and
- Security gates or security screens over windows; and
- Either security gates or security screens over doors; or a secure vestibule for doors.
- Secure all firearms in a safe, secure room, in a secured cage, or behind security shutters when the business is closed.
- As an alternative to this requirement, the Chief of Police may authorize the dealer to provide live security guard coverage.
- The Chief of Police can approve another combination of measures.
“This bill will require appropriate security measures for firearm retail establishments and gun shows in Baltimore County,” said Baltimore County Police Chief Melissa Hyatt. “The goal of this licensing is to avoid more preventable incidents in which multiple weapons are stolen, and then end up in the hands of violent criminals.”
Proponents of the SAFE Act indicated that seven gun shops in Baltimore County had been burglarized 10 times over the past two years. In four of those incidents, the gun thieves succeeded in obtaining weapons.
They also singled out gun thieves in Howard and Montgomery Counties who used a vehicle to ram into storefronts to gain access to inventory.
Opponents of the bill argue that the state and the fed already closely regulate FFLs (hence the “licensee” designation in Federal Firearms Licensee). Moreover, they believe the SAFE Act is really just a way to put gun stores out of business. Between the cost of the security upgrades and the new license — which hasn’t been disclosed yet — it may make selling guns in Baltimore County cost-prohibitive.
“It almost seems like they’re trying to over-regulate to the point where they will limit or chase out the number of federally licensed firearms dealers in the county. We think that’s probably their ultimate goal,” Paul Brockman, a spokesman for the group Patriot Picket, told The Baltimore Sun.
Robert Warnick, a former county police officer, and owner of The Gun Shop and Fishing Tackle Store, agreed that it’s a way to put the squeeze on gun dealers.
“They called the owners of the gun shops into police headquarters and pretty much told us what they’re going to do and then asked for suggestions,” Warnick explained. “It’s just another way of denying the Second Amendment to the people of Baltimore County.”
Olszewski will introduce the SAFE Act on Monday, Dec. 16 during a county council legislative session.