In its latest scorecard edition, an organization against gun violence deemed Maryland passed the test — with an A-minus grade — for its reformed gun laws, making for a lower gun death rate.

Giffords Law Center, which completes a 50-state analysis on gun legislation, has given 10 states an A- ranking, including New York, Illinois and California. It also gave 21 states, including Texas and Georgia, an F.

The center’s Annual Gun Law Scorecard shows allotted points to each state for their respective laws and policies based on strengths or weaknesses before assigning letter grades and comparing their grades against the latest CDC gun death data.

David Pucino, the legal director and deputy chief counsel at Giffords Law Center, said Maryland received an A- this year because it prohibited guns in polling places and other sensitive locations and invested $8.5 million in community violence intervention.

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“What we consistently find is that the states that have the strongest gun laws experience lower gun death rates — it’s a strong correlation that we see across the country,” Pucino said. “Maryland is pretty good. And I think part of that is from the strength of all that was accomplished during the last legislative session.”

The driving forces behind Maryland’s success were the expansion of the state’s child access prevention law to reduce the access that children will have to unsecured firearms and the updates to Maryland law as it relates to carrying concealed weapons in public, Pucino said.

About 40,000 people die from gun violence in the U.S. every year, according to Giffords. The death rate in Maryland is 13.6 people per 100,000, making the gun death rate lower than 34 other states.

“The state made important improvements and strikes with the law. So, Maryland is doing pretty well, but still we rated them an A- because they lack some key policies that other states with that have even higher scores do feature,” Pucino said, adding that a victims access to justice law or a gun industry accountability law are chief among those missing on the list.

Simply put, Pucino said, Maryland could use a minimum standard of responsible conduct expected from merchants engaging in the business of selling products as lethal as firearms.

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Pucino said there’s a minority of “bad apple dealers out there,” companies that don’t abide by a set of minimum standards and whose negligence or apathy, or even potentially criminal intent, facilitates sales to people who shouldn’t have guns. It makes it much too hard for individuals who are harmed as a result of that kind of misconduct to sue the gun companies that are responsible, he added.

Maryland’s position as one of the states with the strongest gun laws “is really important because it shows that Maryland policymakers are doing an awful lot to drive down gun violence in Maryland,” Pucino said. Another policy he highlighted — that also has potential for further growth based on success — is violence intervention funding, he said.

Violence intervention, he said, is part of the $8.5 million afforded to groups throughout the state that go into communities to disrupt cycles of violence and stop shootings before they happen, like the teen violence interrupter program that launched at MERVO, Carver and Digital Harbor high schools in Baltimore to work with students and families as mentors and conflict mediators.

“Putting these dollars into communities and in the hands of people who can do the violence intervention work at the street level can be really effective at preventing violence. It’s something we’ve seen in Maryland so far to hope we can see more of in the future,” Pucino said. Mayor Brandon Scott has been an elected official who has been the most active on violence intervention, he added.

“I think overall, the figure who I would credit a lot for, for the success we’ve seen, there is Mayor Scott,” Pucino said. “He’s really been a champion of violence intervention organizations and the work that they do. So, I think it’s the success that they’re seeing, a lot of it has to be ascribed to him.”

Penelope Blackwell is a Breaking News/Accountability reporter with The Banner. Previously, she covered local government in Durham, NC, for The News & Observer. She received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Morgan State University and her master’s in journalism from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. 

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