Supporters of Maryland’s recently passed gun control law champion its stricter requirements and broader bans on assault weapons, but at a weekend gun and knife show in Annapolis, gun rights advocates said they are worried the new legislation is going to make gun possession more difficult for them than for criminals.
Held at the Annapolis National Guard Armory on Saturday and Sunday, the show welcomed a steady stream of customers focused on beefing up their existing arsenals as well as newcomers looking to buy their first gun.
“All they’re doing is making the [rule] book longer for honest people,” said Dennis Galan, 56, of Quantico, Va., who sported a black National Rifle Association hat. “It drives a panic into good people.”
Annapolis resident Brittany Edwards said she had never held a gun before but, like many prospective first-time gun buyers, said she had come to the show with her husband to shop for a way to defend her family.
“We have our own business, and there’s a possibility of being robbed,” said Mrs. Edwards, 23, after examining a bright pink and black Sig Sauer pistol. “We have a gun safe but no gun. We have a daughter and we want to make sure she’s protected.”
Under Maryland’s current gun laws, Mrs. Edwards or her husband could legally purchase a gun without obtaining a license.
“That’s good because you can defend yourself,” she added, “but you also don’t know who those other people [buying guns] are.”
The concern is one of the reasons behind the Firearm Safety Act of 2013, which passed the General Assembly and which Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is set to sign in May. Along with adding 45 guns to a list of banned assault weapons, the new legislation limits handgun magazines to no more than 10 rounds, requires gun buyers to obtain a license and submit fingerprints during the application process.
The fingerprinting would act as a way to avoid straw purchases, when someone who can’t legally buy a gun has someone else purchase it for them.
Pausing from browsing a rack of camouflage jackets, Annapolis resident Jerry Fields said he didn’t object to the idea of limiting magazine rounds.
“Thirty rounds, that’s a lot of fire power,” Mr. Fields said. “You’re not going to need 30 rounds to defend your house.”
Mr. Fields said that, while fingerprinting licensing might be a chore, it wouldn’t be too much effort.
The problem, however, is “crooks do what they want,” he said.
Criminals dodging the law is one reason for Neil Kravitz’s frustration.
A spokesman for Appalachian Promotions, which sponsored the weekend’s show, Mr. Kravitz, 63, said that while incidents like the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., are tragedies, “Are those horrible things being committed by people who can buy these guns legally?”
“So why are we going after these people who are going about this legally?” the Baltimore County resident asked.
By early afternoon, the hall was still crowded with people gathered around tables loaded down with scopes, sleek pistols, antique rifles, boxes of ammunition and paper targets.
Wandering the aisles, Pat Curran, 65, a defense contractor from Annapolis, said outrage at gun control laws was not about an infringement on the Second Amendment, but about “whittling away amendments.”
“Why not enforce the laws you’ve already got?” he said. “Start enforcing before you start legislating.”
Delegate Neil Parrott, Washington Republican, has initiated the groundwork for putting the firearms act to referendum and is expected to announce an effort Wednesday. A successful petition drive would postpone the act’s effective date from October 2013 until voters decided whether or not to uphold the law in the November 2014 elections.
“This is a start,” Mr. Curran said. “They are waking a sleeping giant.”