TOWSON, MD—Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, Police Chief Melissa Hyatt, and other officials on Monday announced plans to introduce the Secure All Firearms Effectively (SAFE) Act, which would require firearm retail establishments in Baltimore County to install responsible security measures to protect their inventory from potential burglaries.
“We must do whatever we can to keep our communities safe, and that includes doing more to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals,” said County Executive Olszewski. “This bill is a straightforward solution to ensure that we keep stolen weapons off our streets and out of our communities.”
Seven Baltimore County firearm retail establishments were burglarized 10 times in 2018 and 2019. In four of those incidents, burglars succeeded in stealing firearms, including one incident in which 51 weapons were stolen.
In June 2019, burglars attacked firearm retail establishments in Howard County and Montgomery County on successive nights, ramming each retailer with a car and stealing a total of 45 weapons. A suspect charged in those cases was also involved in one of Baltimore County’s attempted burglaries.
According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a total of 5,652 firearms were stolen nationwide in burglaries from dealers in 2018. Weapons stolen from these burglaries are often sold and used to commit additional crimes.
“This bill will require appropriate security measures for firearm retail establishments and gun shows in Baltimore County,” said Baltimore County Police Chief Melissa Hyatt. “The goal of this licensing is to avoid more preventable incidents in which multiple weapons are stolen, and then end up in the hands of violent criminals.”
Many firearm retail establishments do not secure firearms in safes, vaults, shatterproof cases, or take other anti-theft measures after normal business hours, leaving retailers vulnerable to burglary. While some retailers utilize limited security measures, such as window bars, implementation is often not comprehensive, consistent, or effective, officials say.
Maryland law authorizes local jurisdictions to regulate the purchase, sale, transfer, ownership, possession, and transportation of firearms within 100 yards of or in a park, church, school, public building, and other place of public assembly. “Place of public assembly” means a location used for a gathering of 50 or more persons for deliberation, worship, entertainment, eating, drinking, amusement, shopping, awaiting transportation or similar uses.
The bill announced today would create a new county license for firearm retail establishments and temporary gun shows that fall under the county’s regulatory authority. In order to obtain a license, establishments and gun shows would have to implement a Baltimore County Police Department-approved safety plan.
Under the plan, a temporary gun show must have a security plan approved by the Chief of Police that includes an alarm system, video surveillance, and live security guard coverage when the show is closed and establishments must:
The legislation was developed in consultation with law enforcement officials and Baltimore County firearm retail establishment owners, and is based on more stringent state safety requirements for medical cannabis facilities.
The bill will be introduced in the County Council session scheduled for Monday, December 16.