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Support for HB 820/SB 645: Firearm Safety Act

By Most Rev. Denis J. Madden, Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore

Senate Judicial Proceedings and House Judiciary Committees (March 11, 2010)

I offer this testimony in support of House Bill 820/Senate Bill 645 on behalf of the Maryland Catholic Conference, which represents the mutual public policy interests of the three Catholic (arch)dioceses serving Maryland: the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington. In conveying our support for House Bill 820, which would help to reduce gun violence in Maryland, I am pleased to also join my colleagues in the Ecumenical Leaders Group in advocating for this important measure.

As urban vicar of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, I have been privileged to join with religious, political, and other community leaders in many worthy projects to end the deadly violence that afflicts the lives of all city residents, and sadly, far too often, our youth. But until we can find meaningful ways to significantly minimize access to the weapons that enable this terrible destruction of life, our efforts remain greatly challenged.

For this reason the Catholic bishops of Maryland have consistently supported measures aimed at curtailing the tragic and needless violence caused by the abuse of firearms. Those initiatives have included a 1988 ban on “Saturday night special” handguns, a 1994 ban on 15 assault pistols and their “copies,” a 1996 measure limiting handgun purchases to one per month, and a bill enacted in 2000 requiring that all handguns made and sold in Maryland contain safety locks. Consistent with that support, I believe House Bill 820, which would tighten measures designed to keep guns out of the hands of those most likely to cause harm to others, warrants the endorsement of the Church and the many others devoted to reducing violence throughout our state.

In my fifteen years as a clinical psychologist at a University of Maryland School of Medicine, which supported a clinic that specialized in the treatment of violent offenders, I witnessed firsthand the tragic consequences of my patients’ easy access to weapons. So often, the irreversible results of their actions could have been prevented if they had not been able to obtain the weapon that allowed them to take the life of another human being so swiftly and impulsively. It is my hope that the enactment of House Bill 820/Senate Bill 645 will be an important step in preventing these senseless actions, and in saving the precious lives of the residents of our City and the State of Maryland.

Thank you for the opportunity to share our support of this measure. I urge you to give a favorable report to House Bill 820/Senate Bill 645.