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'Right to Carry' laws may be right answer

September 09, 2007|By Lloyd Waters

I've been reading lately that Hagerstown has been really concerned about those released prisoners being left at the local bus station for their trip home.

Instead of taking their seat on the bus, many local citizens, including the mayor, have suggested that many released prisoners have elected to remain in Hagerstown as opposed to returning back to Baltimore or other jurisdictions.

Maryland Public Safety Secretary Gary Maynard and others, who have studied the problem, have concluded that prisoners from the metropolitan area should now be released from a facility in Baltimore. The citizens of Hagerstown can now offer a happy sigh of relief.

Eureka! Problem solved. Crime will be reduced and everyone can live happily ever after, and none of these hooligans will ever come back to Hagerstown.

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And the Easter Bunny is a turtle.

You might feel all warm and fuzzy about this solution and think that you have resolved something, but I doubt seriously that anything has been fixed.

Certainly, if criminals can make their way to Hagerstown from New York and Florida, I cannot imagine them having too much difficulty making the ride up the road from Baltimore.

I bet you the parole agent in Baltimore cannot tell you on any given day the whereabouts of their released clients. Remember Secretary of Public Safety Mary Ann Saar's proposal at one time, where she wanted to pay the parolee $25 to show up for his monthly parole meeting? Wonder why she wanted to do that?

Remember also the fellow from Frederick who came to Hagerstown and is accused of snatching the little girl from her bedroom not so long ago?

While I was examining a few other methods to address the crime problem that obviously concerns you, I came across the Florida state legislature's bill that led to the passage of the "Right to Carry" firearms for all law abiding citizens who might apply for a permit in that state.

Yes, I know what you are thinking.

There were many predictions of doom and gloom offered by the opponents of this bill in Florida, too. Accidents will happen, vigilante justice would surface, and the passage would lead to all sorts of tragedies.

But something strange happened in Florida. The Right to Carry bill was endorsed by many sheriffs, police chiefs and other law enforcement officials. The bill passed and became law in 1987.

And guess what?

None of those doom and gloom predictions has occurred.

Some 1.2 million firearms permits have been issued and only 157 revoked.

Proponents of the bill have suggested that crime has been reduced as a result of its passage.

In 2003, the New Mexico Supreme Court upheld a Right to Carry law in that state.

Shortly afterward, Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri adopted similar laws.

Nebraska, Kansas and Ohio are the most recent states to pass Right to Carry laws.

Some 40 states are now considered "Right to Carry" states - 36 of these states have "shall issue" laws, which require the applicant to meet certain uniformed guidelines which have been developed by those respective state legislatures.

An application is usually made by the individual, a background check is performed and training completed.

While many states are confronting crime by permitting law-abiding citizens to apply and carry firearms, Maryland's conservative posture in regard to "Right to Carry" laws is significantly more restrictive. Wyatt Earp would have a problem getting a permit in this state. Are we then smarter or dumber in regard to the majority of states in combating crime?

If our local representatives are truly concerned about the brazen criminal acts in our community and preventing them, then perhaps some brave political representative might examine some of the information contained in this column, especially in the state of Florida, and pursue a similar law for Maryland.

Permitting law-abiding citizens the opportunity to defend themselves and their property is, after all, paramount to public safety. They might also want to review the "stand your ground" law that Florida passed in 2005 in regard to defending your personal livelihood and property from criminal intrusion.

As our society becomes increasingly more violent with guns in the hands of people like Seung Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech murderer and Paul Devoe, who is suspected of killing the elderly lady in Chambersburg, Pa., maybe it's time to rethink our position in Maryland on providing more protection to our citizens through a Right to Carry law.

Like a good posse, you might feel happy that you have chased some of the bad guys out of town, but in all reality, just like the smart sheriff of Tombstone is aware, you better know the bad guys can come back at any time.

For now, you might want to sleep with one eye open - and hope you can run fast if someone shows up at your door with a gun.

Lloyd "Pete" Waters is a Sharpsburg resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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