As Prepared for Delivery
Good morning. Thank you Senator Joan Carter Conway, and Delegates Jay Walker, Lou Simmons, and Sandy Rosenberg for your work with our task forces on gun violence and mental health. Delegate Pete Hammen, thank you for your commitment to mental health initiatives in our State. And Vinnie DeMarco is here – Vinnie, thank you for your work on preventing gun violence in our State.
I also want to thank Lt. Governor Anthony Brown, who has agreed to lead our community engagement efforts on this important issue over the weeks to come.
And I especially want to recognize the men and women of Maryland’s law enforcement who are here today – our State is safer because of you. We’re here to protect you: military style assault weapons don’t just threaten children and families, they threaten the men and women of law enforcement who put themselves in harm’s way every day.
A great American once said: “The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed.”
Every morning when I wake up, I look at two things before doing anything else,… how many of our fellow citizens were murdered the day before. And how many of our children we lost to violence.
In Maryland, we share the belief that we do not have to resign ourselves to the way things have always been,… or what we’ve never been able to do in the past. That we can save lives. That each life is precious. Each life is important. And if you save just one life, it is as if you have saved the entire world.
A decade and a half ago, when Baltimore had slipped into becoming the most violent, drug-addicted city in America,… we said that “We create jobs and improve schools by first improving public safety.” That only by “fighting crime and closing down open-air drug markets,” could we make any progress for our City.
And because, with data-driven, results-oriented strategies, we drove down violent crime 40%,… together, we made progress.
Progress is a choice. So long as gun violence continues to take the lives of our fellow Marylanders, there are choices we must make together.
That is what brings us here today. In addition to the initiatives to combat gun violence that we’ll get to in a moment, we’re proposing to renew our State’s DNA law that has taken 510 murders, rapists, and other violent criminals off Maryland’s streets.
We are also proposing the largest investment in Maryland’s police forces in 20 years.
And we will advance common sense, comprehensive reforms to protect our families from gun violence.
Preventing Gun Violence in Maryland
I recently received a letter from a mom in Elkton, who writes – quote – “[We] don’t need politics when it comes to gun control – [we] need consensus and progress,… We need to feel safe in our malls and schools. We need our children to feel secure in their childhoods. I hope that politicians in Maryland can at least agree on that, and work together towards realistic change,…”
The causes of gun violence are complex and multifaceted. And so are the actions we can and must take, together, to prevent it. We can’t just take the easy road and think that addressing just guns, just school safety, or just mental health will solve this problem.
Therefore, the legislative package we’re putting forth is, by necessity, comprehensive and multi-pronged:
1. Guns. It will ban military-style assault weapons that have no place in the City of Baltimore, or in the State of Maryland. It will also limit the size of the magazines,… to make it harder for criminals to gun down, in succession, police officers or schoolchildren.
And, it will have a common-sense licensing requirements for handguns that respect the traditions of hunters and sportsmen.
2. Mental health. Never again do we want to say after the fact “if we only knew what we knew.” Therefore, it will contain real and substantive reforms to improve mental health services.
Reforms like more timely data-sharing,… investments in better treatment,… and the creation of a new Center for Excellence on Early Intervention for Serious Mental Illness, so that we’re able to utilize more effective early intervention strategies.
3. School safety. It will invest $25 million in our schools to improve the safety of their facilities.
Those of us that have occasion to visit our children’s schools know that there is a wide spectrum when it comes to the safeguards that are in place. Simple things like the doors being locked, and visitors being checked in could make all the difference. So, we will be creating a fund within our capital schools budget which will help us to bring schools up to higher standards.
We will also be creating a “Maryland Center for School Safety,” which will work with both public schools and law enforcement to provide advice for school officials on the things we can do to effectively safeguard our campuses.
To conclude: We’ve made important progress together, driving violent crime in Maryland down to three decade lows. This didn’t happen by itself. It wasn’t barometric pressures, or conditions brought about by the Gulf Stream that drove down violent crime in our State. These are human problems we are confronted with, and so too are their solutions.
The solutions we’re proposing are not about banning all guns or casting blame on everything but guns. It’s about putting the focus on saving lives,… with a comprehensive approach that puts the focus on the practical, common sense things that we can do together to save lives.
There is no way to completely eliminate the risk of another tragedy like the one in Newtown. But that cannot be an excuse that keeps us from doing common sense things. Because every life is valuable. Every life is needed.
This isn’t about ideology – it’s about human dignity. The dignity of every individual life. The dignity of every one of those little kids. The dignity of every child and every person in the United States of America. Thank you.