Gun rights group fires regulation warning to Prince George’s -- Gazette.Net


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Prince George’s County and some of its municipalities have been warned by a gun-rights group to change their laws regulating the carrying of firearms or face a possible lawsuit.

A portion of the county code — Sec. 14-140 — prohibits the possession of loaded firearms within 1,000 feet of houses, schools, churches, parks, places of assemblies and playgrounds.

The Second Amendment Foundation, based in Bellevue, Wash., said the code violates Maryland law, which only permits counties to regulate firearm possession 300 feet from such areas and cannot regulate gun possession near houses or playgrounds. State law on gun ownership, sales and possession preempt local ordinances, the letter states.

The nonprofit group advocates nationally for individual gun ownership rights, said Dave Workman, a foundation spokesman.

Scott Peterson, spokesman for County Executive Rushern L. Baker (D), said attorneys for the county are reviewing the group’s letter and had no further comment.

Workman said the group sent similar letters to municipalities and counties in Virginia and Washington state last year as part of a pilot program aimed at letting officials know that some of their gun laws conflicted with state laws. He said the project was started for the group by a law student who lived in Virginia, which is why two Eastern states have received letters.

He said the group has yet to take legal action against any local government that was sent a letter.

Cheverly and Laurel officials confirmed receiving letters and Workman said letters were also sent to Morningside, Bladensburg, Berwyn Heights and Mount Rainier, but municipal officials said they were unaware of them.

Alan Brody, spokesman for the Maryland State Attorney General’s Office, said officials there are aware of the letters, but have no legal position on them because they have not been asked for advice concerning them. He said officials are not aware of any conflicts with municipal gun laws and state law.

Pete Piringer, Laurel’s director of communications and public information, said officials reviewed the letter and determined the city followed federal and state law concerning firearm regulations.

In Cheverly, the gun-rights group took issue with Section 20-4 of the town code, which prohibits the carrying or wearing of “dangerous or deadly weapons of any kind whatsoever.”

Cheverly Mayor Michael Callahan said the town is ready to update the code if it is not in compliance with state law.

“Maryland has strong gun control laws, and if we need to be in accordance with Maryland gun control laws, then fine,” Callahan said.

Former councilman Micah Watson criticized the group for trying to stir up a local controversy.

“The letter seems to be off base and raising an issue that is not really a relevant issue of the people of Cheverly today,” Watson said. “This seems like an outside group trying to create an issue within town that, frankly, I have not heard any resident raise.”

tsandoval@gazette.net