The recent arrest and subsequent court hearing of a private school employee who took a gun to school have county and state officials pondering a change to one of Maryland’s gun laws.
They want to change the law to close a loophole that prohibits people from taking guns to public schools, but not private schools.
In November, police arrested Stephen P. Lafferty, of Frederick, after he took a revolver he used to hunt deer to the school where he worked, Georgetown Preparatory School in North Bethesda.
Lafferty, a building maintenance supervisor for the private school, told police he had the gun there because he was going to have some repair work done on it, according to his lawyer, Dino Flores.
Officials at the school learned about the firearm after one of his co-workers took a photo of the gun and texted the image to an administrator, Flores said.
Police charged Lafferty with possessing a deadly weapon on school property. After searching him and finding a metal pipe, they also charged him with possessing drug paraphernalia. The drug charge is pending in court.
School students were never in any danger, Flores said.
Lafferty’s office was 300 to 400 yards away from places where students congregated and Lafferty’s Smith and Wesson revolver had been unloaded and holstered, Flores said.
Georgetown Prep officials have since fired Lafferty, but prosecutors dropped the gun charge at Lafferty’s trial last week.
Technically, he hadn’t broken the law.
Under Maryland law, it is only illegal to take guns onto public school property.
State law forbids people from carrying or possessing a firearm, knife, or deadly weapon on public school property, unless they are law enforcement officers or guards on duty, engaged in educational shooting activities sanctioned by the school, or have been invited by the school, and they “display or engage in a historical demonstration using a weapon or a replica of a weapon for educational purposes.”
“What my client did was not a violation of criminal law,” Flores said.
Lafferty made an agreement with prosecutors on the drug charged, he said. The charge would be put on the court’s “stet,” or inactive, docket, until he completed a drug education course, at which point Lafferty could seek to have the charge expunged, Flores said.
He added: “Whether the legislature wants to be in the position to tell private institutions what they should or shouldn’t do, that’s up to them. But they clearly didn’t do it in this case.”
Prosecutors said the law should be changed.
Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy told The Washington Post that state legislators should close the loophole in the law.
“Why any schools would be excluded is mystifying to me,” he told the Post.
In a statement to The Gazette, Montgomery County Police called the gap in the law a “grave concern.”
After learning about the case this week from The Gazette, one state delegate called for a change in the law.
Del. Kevin Kelly (D-Dist 1B) said he would submit a bill to close the law’s loophole in the next legislative session in January.
“If this [law] doesn’t cover private schools, I think that’s got to be examined,” he said in a phone interview.
“I don’t want anyone not authorized bringing a gun on school property,” he said.