Preventing and Reducing Gun Violence

Gun Reform

As a nation, it is time for sensible gun safety laws that save lives. That is why Governor O’Malley has set a national goal of cutting deaths from gun violence in half within 10 years. Week after week, more images of horrific gun violence flash across our TV and computer screens. These tragedies aren’t isolated incidents; they are part of a full-blown—and entirely preventable—epidemic. We cannot afford to sit by and let this constant heartbreak become the norm.

As Governor of Maryland, O’Malley implemented some of the toughest measures in the nation to reduce gun violence. He put in place licensing, fingerprinting, background checks, and safety training requirements for all buyers. If a firearm was lost or stolen, owners were required to immediately notify law enforcement. And Maryland prohibited the sale of assault weapons and limited the size of magazines—all while protecting the state’s proud hunting tradition.

Governor O’Malley is calling for the nation to adopt similar, commonsense reforms—while also closing loopholes that allow prohibited individuals to easily purchase guns, prevent law enforcement from holding dealers and gun traffickers accountable when they break the law, and lead to the deaths of thousands of children every year. These proven solutions are achievable at a national scale—if, as a nation, we have the courage and conviction to do the right thing.


Federally licensed firearms dealers are already required to conduct background checks in order to keep firearms out of the hands of people who have committed violent felonies or domestic abuse. While this requirement has effectively prevented more than 2.4 million prohibited people from acquiring guns, large loopholes allow others to easily purchase firearms.

Expand Background Check Protections to All Sales

The biggest and most dangerous loophole is that unlicensed sellers, who account for roughly 40 percent of all firearm sales, are not required to run background checks. Closing this loophole has been proven to save lives: In the 18 states that already require a criminal background check, the number of police officers shot and killed while on duty, the number of people who commit suicides with guns, and the number of women shot to death by their partners is nearly 50 percent lower than in other states.

As president, Governor O’Malley will:

  • Require a background check for every gun sale. O’Malley will fight for laws requiring all gun buyers to complete background checks. All private sales would be processed through a licensed dealer or law enforcement agency that completes background checks, as O’Malley required in Maryland.
  • End unregulated internet gun and ammunition sales. Because hundreds of thousands of guns are sold online, people who are prohibited from owning them can easily purchase guns while avoiding a background check. O’Malley will work to require all gun and ammunition purchases to be completed in person through licensed dealers, who will be required to complete a background check and comply with all other safety laws.
  • Strengthen background check protections. O’Malley will work end “default proceeds,” where agents have only three business days to finish background checks before the sale automatically proceeds. Law enforcement should have the time they need to complete background checks: this broken process allows more than 2,500 prohibited individuals to purchase guns annually. O’Malley will also seek to end the “Brady exemption” that allows permit holders to avoid background checks.
  • Encourage states to improve information sharing. In order for background checks to be fully effective, states must provide complete and accurate data on persons prohibited from owning guns, including those with felony records and histories of domestic abuse. The Obama Administration has made important investments to support states that share information with the federal background check system. O’Malley will build on these efforts, continuing to provide critical resources to states to help them modernize recordkeeping and share critical data.

Implement Commonsense Safeguards for Gun Purchases

Beyond background checks, commonsense measures like mandatory gun licensing, waiting periods, and age restrictions have proven to dramatically reduce gun-related homicides, suicides, and trafficking. Drawing from his experience in Maryland, where under his leadership the state successfully implemented important safety measures, the Governor will fight to ensure that all Americans benefit from the same basic protections.

As president, Governor O’Malley will:

  • Enact comprehensive requirements for gun purchases, including fingerprint licensing. Building from successful reform efforts in Maryland, O’Malley will require all individuals who seek to purchase or transfer any gun to obtain a fingerprint-based license, and complete safety training with a waiting period, in addition to passing a background check. As he did in Maryland, O’Malley will extend these same requirements to private sales by requiring all sales to be completed through licensed dealers.
  • Set a national age requirement for handgun possession. A full quarter of gun crimes are committed by individuals 21 years-old and younger, based on data from 13 states; and guns are used in 38 percent of suicides among young people. O’Malley will work to set a federal minimum age of 21 for handgun ownership and possession.
  • Require the responsible storage of guns at home. Guns are the second leading cause of death among children and teens, and the first cause among African American children. The responsible storage of guns can prevent suicide, violence, and accidents: 70 percent of unintentional child deaths from guns happened when firearms were stored irresponsibly.
    While licensed dealers are already required to make sure that gun purchasers have safety devices, there is far more to be done to ensure responsible gun storage. O’Malley will extend existing safety standards to all firearm sales. He will also issue federal rules clearly defining the gun locks and safes that meet safety standards.
  • Reject federally mandated concealed carry. Republicans in Congress have proposed overriding existing state laws regarding who should be able to carry concealed guns within their borders. These laws are enacted by the voters and elected representatives of each state in order to keep their neighbors safe. O’Malley will defend strong state regulations, pushing back against efforts to force every state to recognize the concealed-carry permits issued by other states. Several states’ concealed-carry laws are extraordinarily weak, granting permits to individuals who do not complete safety training, have been convicted of a violent crime, or have a demonstrated history of drug or alcohol abuse.

Protect Women from Gun Violence

America is the most dangerous country in the developed world for women when it comes to gun violence. Domestic abusers can still easily purchase and own guns, and abused women are five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if a firearm is present. Closing loopholes that allow people to buy guns from unlicensed sellers is an important first step to keeping guns out of the hands of men who abuse or stalk women. But additional action must be taken to save women’s lives.

As president, Governor O’Malley will:

  • Close the “boyfriend loophole”. People convicted of domestic violence are already prohibited from owning and purchasing guns. However, this prohibition extends only to people who are living with, married to, or have a child with the person suffering abuse—meaning that someone who is convicted of domestic violence in a dating relationship can still own and purchase guns. O’Malley supports the proposed federal legislation that would close this loophole, providing critical protections for women who are targets of dating violence. O’Malley also supports provisions that prohibit anyone convicted of stalking from owning a gun.
  • Ban guns for those subject to emergency restraining orders. In addition, current law disarms only people who are under permanent restraining orders—leaving accused domestic-violence offenders who are under emergency restraining orders free to own and purchase guns. The days following the service of an emergency order of protection can be the most dangerous, and it can take several weeks or longer for permanent restraining orders to be imposed. O’Malley supports federal legislation that will prevent those under emergency restraining orders from purchasing or possessing a firearm for the duration of the order.
  • Disarm and prosecute those who break the law. Existing bans on gun ownership for domestic abusers and stalkers are too rarely enforced. O’Malley will make it a priority to disarm those convicted of committing domestic violence, and to prosecute those who fail to comply with the law.

Expand Reporting Requirements to Help Law Enforcement Fight Gun Crime

Firearm registration helps law enforcement officers identify and prosecute violent criminals, allowing them to quickly and reliably trace firearms recovered from crime scenes. Centralized registration systems and mandatory reporting of lost and stolen firearms also deter illegal sales, while encouraging gun owners to responsibly use and store their firearms.

As president, Governor O’Malley will: 

  • Establish a national firearms registry. Although firearm registration helps advance public safety, federal law actually prohibits creation of a national system for registering firearms. This makes tracing guns back to their sale a slow, cumbersome, or even impossible process. O’Malley will push to revise federal law to establish a comprehensive, centralized firearm registration system, where records would be maintained electronically and indefinitely. All firearms purchases would be recorded and registered at sale, and re-registered when they are resold or transferred.
  • Mandate reporting to law enforcement of lost or stolen firearms. In addition, O’Malley will work to mandate that all lost or stolen firearms be reported immediately to law enforcement. These reports would be registered in the national database, helping law enforcement more quickly trace guns that are used in crimes—and identify individuals who routinely fail to report lost or stolen guns and may be trafficking firearms.
  • Require microstamping for all guns. Firearms can be designed to imprint a unique alphanumeric code onto a cartridge case when it is fired. This allows law enforcement to better trace the guns used in crimes, expediting investigations and further deterring trafficking. O’Malley supports a national microstamping law.

Hold Bad Actors Accountable

Law enforcement faces additional barriers to regulating firearms dealers and preventing gun trafficking and crime. Industry-friendly laws limit federal inspections of firearm dealers and ensure toothless punishments for breaking the law. The National Rifle Association and its allies have prevented the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) from having the resources it needs to enforce our nation’s modest gun control laws. Law enforcement must have the tools required to ensure gun safety and hold bad actors accountable.

As president, Governor O’Malley will:

  • Revoke licenses when dealers break the law. The ATF is often unable to revoke the licenses of dealers who break the law because of certain restrictions and a lack of resources. Even when the agency does find serious violations, like gun sales to those who are underage, it can take one to three years for dealers to lose their licenses. Moreover, the ATF must meet the difficult standard of finding that dealers committed a violation “willfully” —even though dealers who break federal laws are a major source of trafficked firearms.
    O’Malley will ensure the ATF has the funding and authority it needs to do its job and keep the American people safe. This includes revising the standard by which dealers can have their licenses revoked, and increasing follow-up so that dealers who lose their licenses do not pass on their business to friends or relatives, or continue to sell guns as unlicensed sellers.
  • Ensure regular and unexpected inspections of licensed dealers. Currently, ATF may conduct only one unannounced inspection of each licensed firearms dealer per year. Moreover, because of a lack of federal resources, licensed dealers are inspected only once per decade on average. O’Malley will lift the inspections cap and dedicate the necessary resources to monitoring dealers to ensure that they comply with the law.
  • Increase federal penalties for gun traffickers. There is no clear and enforceable federal prohibition on gun trafficking. Rather, law enforcement uses prohibitions from selling guns without a license to go after traffickers—and the penalty imposed is the same punishment for trafficking chicken or livestock. O’Malley supports the bipartisan Senate legislation introduced this year that would make selling guns to a prohibited person a felony under federal law.

Use the Power of the Federal Purse to Advance Gun Safety

Government agencies are the largest purchaser of firearms, accounting for 40 percent of gun industry revenues. By adjusting federal procurement policies, the federal government can encourage gun manufacturers and dealers to work to prevent trafficking and gun violence, while driving innovation that advances gun safety.

As president, Governor O’Malley will:

  • Use procurement contracts to advance gun safety. O’Malley will require manufacturers that seek federal contracts to make simple design changes that advance gun safety and improve law enforcement’s ability to trace firearms. These include hidden serial numbers that cannot be defaced, microstamping, magazine disconnect mechanisms, and other safety improvements.

Ensure Gun Manufacturers Act Responsibly

Holding gun manufacturers accountable when they contribute to gun violence can help break the pipeline through which criminals and dangerous individuals obtain and traffic guns. Yet, manufacturers have little incentive to encourage bad actors to reform: they continue to profit from dealers’ unscrupulous sales, while Congress protects them from any liability for contributing to criminal or deadly behavior.

As president, Governor O’Malley will:

  • End immunity for gun manufacturers. Every state holds manufacturers accountable for producing and selling products that cause harm. But in 2005, the Republican-controlled Congress protected gun makers and dealers from most liability when their firearms are used criminally: the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act effectively wiped out gun liability laws in all 50 states. O’Malley will fight to overturn the Act, allowing states and cities to better protect their citizens from negligence, and giving victims of mass shootings the ability to hold irresponsible gun manufacturers and dealers accountable.
  • Ban sale or distribution of assault weapons. Assault weapons are designed to be extraordinarily deadly. So it is no surprise that mass shootings involving assault weapons are 50 percent more deadly, resulting in 155 percent more people being shot. O’Malley will ban the sale and distribution of all military-style assault weapons, including assault pistols and long guns, as he did in Maryland. He will also ban the sale or distribution of large-capacity magazines and “cop killer” ammunition through federal regulation.

Check out Governor O’Malley’s 7 Executive Actions to Reduce and Prevent Gun Violence.