Applications for gun purchases in Maryland are soaring ahead of the start of a tough new firearms law that sets new magazine capacity limits and bans the sale of certain types of assault weapons.
The Washington Times reported that state police received 85,141 gun-purchase applications this year through Aug. 31. That’s compared with 70,099 applications in all of 2012 and 46,339 applications in 2011. Maryland State Police have increased staffing to cope.
In August 2012, 38 employees were assigned to conduct background checks, but this year 73 employees are doing that work, according to Sgt. Marc Black. Black said 60 temporary staffers are also rotating hours.
“We’re looking at unprecedented numbers,” Maryland State Police Sgt. Marc Black told the newspaper. “We saw this coming.”
So far, officials have processed 46,942 of this year’s applications.
Meanwhile gun dealers say they have been overwhelmed ahead of the law’s Oct. 1 effective date.
“Because of the gun ban, business has been booming,” said Al Koch, store manager at Bart’s Sports World, a Glen Burnie-based gun shop. “It’s been busy like crazy with people making last-minute decisions.”
Tammy Sager, an employee at Angus MacGregor’s Trading Post in Waldorf, told The Washington Times that her firearms shop recently received an approved application from police that was submitted in May.
"This person passed all the requirements — gun safety training, no criminal background — but that’s five months to get a background check," Sager said. "I don’t mind doing a background check, but what’s the holdup? I understand they’re getting a lot of applications, but why is it taking so long?"
The new gun law Maryland lawmakers passed earlier this year bans 45 types of assault weapons, but people who own them now will be able to keep them. The law also limits handgun magazines to 10 rounds and requires people to submit fingerprints to the state police to get a license to buy a handgun.
In addition, Maryland State Police will be able to suspend the licenses of gun dealers who fail to comply with new record-keeping obligations. The provision will allow the state police to supplement enforcement efforts of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The measure also requires mandatory reporting to law enforcement of lost or stolen firearms.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, proposed the bill in January in response to the December shooting in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman killed 20 children and six adults.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.