A scarlet letter for guns
Lawmakers in Prince George’s County, Md. hate guns so much they want to brand anyone convicted of violating one of the state’s convoluted firearm statutes. Stab someone with a knife, and the county won’t care or take notice of you after you serve your time. Sell a handgun that’s not on the state’s list of approved firearms, and the Washington suburb will mark you as a criminal and hold you up to public ridicule.
Beginning July 27, anyone convicted of a gun offense in the county must register with the chief of police. The person will be required to provide a description of the crime, conviction date, home and work address and other “identifying factors.” The offender is then forced to check in with the registry every six months for at least three years. The county council, which voted unanimously for the ordinance last month, said the purpose was to help the police “track repeat offenders” and “assist in subsequent investigations.”
Maryland’s attorney general ruled in late June that the list must also be made public. A spokesman for Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III said they are “working through the process” on how to make it publicly available. County politicians studied neighboring Baltimore city and District of Columbia gun offenders registries when drafting the legislation. The Baltimore list was upended in 2011 when a circuit court ruled that the law creating it was “unconstitutionally vague and overly broad.”
The D.C. city council started its list in 2009 after the Supreme Court forced Washington to end its 30-year handgun ban. The list is supposed to be an internal tool for the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) to monitor offenders, though the police are allowed to share the list with any federal, state or local government agency.