UPDATED (3:30 p.m.)—Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and Police Chief Jim Johnson Monday called for tougher gun laws in the wake of a shooting at a Connecticut elementary school that left 26 dead, including 20 children.
"Such a discussion is not an assault on the Second Amendment," Kamenetz said. "This is an assault on assault weapons. The founding fathers granted Americans the right to bear arms but like other rights in the Constitution, that right is not absolute, and it is subject to reasonable limits."
But a representative of the Associated Gun Clubs of Baltimore said it is too early to discuss stricter gun laws.
Kamenetz Monday read from an open letter he said he was sending to state and federal officials. [A copy of the letter is attached to this article.]
Kamenetz and Johnson called on state and federal lawmakers to tighten gun laws including:
- Elimination of exceptions to national background checks.
- Ending the sale of "military-grade assault weapons that can out-gun our police officers."
- Ending the sale of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
Police say Adam Lanza used a Bushmaster .223 rifle and two handguns—a Glock 9mm pistol and a SIG Sauer—to shoot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School. Lanza was also reportedly carrying multiple high-capacity magazines for the weapons that were legally purchased by his mother, whom Lanza is also believed to have killed.
Once inside, Lanza used the guns favored by some police and military to kill 26 including 20 children, according to reports.
"The people of Baltimore County and the people all across the nation should not have access to the weapons of war," Kamenetz said. "An assault rifle used to battle the Taliban has no place in Towson, Dundalk, or Catonsville. In our wildest dreams, it is impossible to imagine that the right to bear arms would mean that citizens could walk the streets with assault rifles issued to soldiers on the battlefield or weapons that utilize high capacity magazines."
Police Chief Jim Johnson called the proliferation of gun violence "a public health epidemic."
Both Johnson and Kamenetz referenced gun incidents that took place in Baltimore County in September—the shooting at Perry Hall High School and another incident involving at gun at Stemmers Run Middle School.
Johnson criticized the ability to purchase guns through private purchases both online and in classified ads. He said 40 percent of gun sales are made through such purchases which are not subject to mandatory background checks.
"This is like allowing 40 percent of people travelling on our airlines to go through the airport without being checked," Johnson said.
Johnson, chairman for the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence, also called for the banning of high capacity ammunition magazines similar to an effort he announced in July.
John Josselyn, legislative vice president of Associated Gun Clubs of Baltimore, declined to comment on the news conference and instead referred a reporter to a statement issued Monday morning. [A copy of the statement is attached to this article.]
"We find it callous and disrespectful that certain politicians and gun control advocates are so focused on their political agenda that they could not find it in their hearts to refrain from publicly exploiting this heartbreaking tragedy until after the victims had been returned to their families and loved ones," Josselyn wrote in the statement. "This is not the time for emotional rhetoric and political posturing. Rather, this is a time for grieving, thoughtful reflection, and healing.
"We should carefully consider on what has happened to the basic fabric of our society. A society in which some individuals, for reasons we do not yet understand, have come to view gratuitous violence as a means to express their unhappiness with themselves," Josselyn wrote. "Our thoughts, prayers, and sincere condolences go out to all of the victims of this senseless tragedy."