Editor’s Note: Martin O’Malley, a former governor of Maryland and mayor of Baltimore, is seeking the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
As Maryland governor, Martin O'Malley pushed for state gun law, strongest in U.S.
He says as president, he'd take on the NRA
He proposes plan for cutting deaths from gun violence in half within 10 years
For far too long, Democrats have been too afraid to stand up to the gun lobby.
It’s time for that to change. If I am elected president, I will make reducing and preventing gun violence one of my 15 goals to rebuild the American dream. And right now, I am putting forward a comprehensive policy plan for cutting deaths from gun violence in half – homicides, suicides, and accidents – within 10 years.
My plan starts with expanding safeguards to all gun purchases, whether from a licensed dealer, online posting, or private sale. Under my plan, a background check would be required for each and every gun purchase. And every person seeking to purchase or transfer a gun would have to obtain a fingerprint-based license, including completing safety training and a waiting period. Without such protections, it will remain far too easy for criminals to legally buy guns.
My plan will also cut gun violence by focusing on the largest purchaser of firearms: our government. By adjusting federal procurement policies, the federal government can encourage both gun manufacturers and dealers to prevent trafficking and violence, while spurring innovations that improve gun safety. This means requiring agencies to purchase only cutting-edge guns, such as those that have hidden serial numbers that cannot be defaced.
Guns are now the second leading cause of death among children and teens, so I would take steps to require safe storage of guns at home. Because gun violence is committed disproportionately by young people, I would set a national age requirement of 21 for all handgun purchases and handgun possession. And because the U.S. is the most dangerous country in the developed world for women when it comes to gun violence, I would fight to close loopholes that allow domestic abusers to own and purchase guns.
Above all, law enforcement must be empowered to uphold these protective measures – by revoking the licenses of dealers whose guns routinely end up in the hands of criminals. And to shut down the pipeline of illegal guns that flow from states with weak gun laws to states with strong ones, we should establish strong federal penalties for gun traffickers. Possessing marijuana can be a felony under federal law; outrageously, trafficking guns is not.
Even as the vast majority of gun owners are law-abiding, we know the immense harm that comes if guns end up in the wrong hands. By establishing a national firearms registry, we can track guns to the root cause of tragedies. By requiring all lost or stolen firearms to be reported to law enforcement, we can monitor the number of illegal guns in our communities.
My comprehensive plan will not stop every senseless gun death. But it will ensure that fewer families are needlessly torn apart by gun violence.
I am not new to this fight. In 2003, seeing the epidemic of gun violence wash over my city of Baltimore when I was mayor, I called for a ban on assault weapons in our state.
In 2013, after the horrific massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, I made passing comprehensive gun safety laws my No. 1 priority as governor. The National Rifle Association launched an all-out attack: It flooded the Maryland state house and threatened state legislators, who ended up enacting the strongest gun safety laws in the nation – including the assault weapons ban I had started fighting for 10 years before.
Even today, the NRA is targeting me as a “menace” to its cause. I’ve never given in to the NRA, and I certainly won’t as president. I believe that we shouldn’t be taking gun safety advice from groups that only exist to sell more guns.
This work is more urgent than ever. Eight law enforcement officers were shot and killed in the line of duty last month. Over Labor Day weekend alone, at least 145 people were killed by gunfire, and twice as many were injured. And yet, Washington still isn’t doing anything about it.
Gun violence can be stopped. As president, I will work with anyone, from any party, with the courage to put the right policies in place to do so. We know what works. We simply need the courage and leadership to act to save lives.