Stricter laws limiting children’s access to firearms overdue

I assumed the role of Executive Director of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence on May 1. In my first month on the job, I had to deal with two major mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas that shook the nation. Less than two months after this work began, the United States Supreme Court released its decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Brue,n rendering unconstitutional the New York law requiring a license to carry concealed weapons in public places. With all of these events taking place and the ensuing legislative action, the bill that I have consistently championed from the start strengthens the prevention of child access in Maryland (“Teenager’s Fatal Shot stresses the need to strengthen laws on the safe storage of firearms”, August 9).

It has been over four years since 16-year-old Jaelynn Willey was shot at Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County. Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence has worked tirelessly to strengthen child access prevention legislation for the past four years, but without success. From May to July 2022, MPGV partnered with Strong Future Maryland, and we collected over 240 signatures from individuals, candidates, and organizations that support strengthening the Child Access Prevention Act of Maryland (Jaelynn’s Law), which would raise the age requirement for gun owners to safely store guns from 16 to 18 and hold gun owners accountable when they don’t.

On August 6, the life of 15-year-old Nykayla Strawder was cut short after she was shot by a 9-year-old boy who had access to his parent’s gun. It is heartbreaking to see families negatively affected by gun violence in a city where I live and knowing that it could easily have been one of my neighbors, friends or family members. Nykerah Strawder and Dontay Jones have every right to demand justice for their daughter and call for change. We need to value the lives of children in our communities and strengthen laws to prevent child access.

My deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of Nykayla Strawder. Preventing child access is an essential part of protecting minors from gun violence and I will continue to work with other advocates to strengthen this legislation that will protect our children.

—Myles Hicks, Baltimore

The writer is executive director of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence.

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