Count Prince George’s County Council Chairman Mel Franklin (D-Upper Marlboro) among the local officials who are unhappy about the gun show that will take place in the county Saturday.
“I do not believe a gun show is a legitimate activity to have in a parks facility,” he said Friday during a roundtable discussion about gun violence led by U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.).
The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission reluctantly allowed a Pennsylvania-based company to rent the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro for a firearms show after imposing unusually strict safety rules, including a prohibition on the sale or presence of live ammunition. The agency said it is concerned about who would be held responsible if something went wrong at the gun show, and would like the state to consider banning or regulating such events.
Franklin said he agrees with the commission’s request that the state legislature prescribe specific security or safety standards for gun shows across the state.
“I believe there is a right to bear arms, but we have to practice strong safety standards for a big event with a whole lot of guns,” Franklin said. “We shouldn’t wait until we have an incident.”
Gun rights advocates say they think county leaders are searching for a way to ban the shows altogether.
Cardin’s roundtable Friday was the second event he has hosted in Maryland as part of a renewed push by leading Democrats for national gun legislation.
Cardin said the time has come for measures that enjoy broad support, such as expanding “effective” background checks and closing the so-called “gun show loophole” that could curb “straw purchases” — the resale of firearms to people who cannot legally buy them.
Past efforts to pass new national gun laws in the wake of mass shootings in Newtown, Conn., and elsewhere have been blocked by the Republican majority in Congress.
“We have the popular support,” Cardin told a room full of civic, nonprofit, faith and political leaders. “Our problem is we can’t get leaders in Congress to bring it to a vote. . . . If we get a vote, we might win this one.”
Gun control is an issue that Washington-area leaders are eager to tackle. After a few years of decline, homicides are creeping up again in the District and in Prince George’s County.
More than 70 percent of homicides are carried out by a gun — usually one that has been obtained illegally, said Barry Stanton, a top public safety aide to County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), who attended the roundtable.
State’s attorney Angela Alsobrooks recalled the story of Knijah Bibb, a 3-year-old who was killed in August. Investigators say a man sprayed her house with bullets over a petty disagreement with a person who lived there.
“We’re not naive about it,” Cardin said. “We understand there is an intentional effort to deny any changes in our gun safety laws, but we’re not going to be silent.”