BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Right now, your neighbors could be stockpiling weapons in their homes–and it’s perfectly legal. In light of recent violence, some question whether the law makes it too easy to do so.
Mary Bubala explores the passionate debate over gun control.
Guns are at the center of the tragedy in Aurora, Colo., and in a shootout with police at Texas A&M. In Maryland, police arrested a man who threatened to kill his boss.
“The very first priority was eliminate the threat and that’s what we did,” said Prince George’s County Police Chief Mark McGaw.
In all these cases, the suspects amassed an arsenal of weapons in their homes.
Just weeks after the Batman movie shooting, Neil Prescott called his former boss from his Crofton apartment, warning “I’m a joker and I’m gonna load my guns and blow everybody up.”
“The key piece here is it didn’t happen,” McGaw said.
Inside Prescott’s apartment, police discovered two dozen guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Every weapon Prescott owned, he bought legally. WJZ obtained his application to become a gun collector, which was approved. He could buy as many guns as he wanted.
“There are therefore no gun charges that the state can bring at this time,” said Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks.
Alsobrooks prosecuted Prescott. She believes Maryland gun laws should be re-examined to weed out people who shouldn’t have a collector’s permit, including people with mental illness.
State police records show in four months last year, Prescott bought 13 firearms.
“We have a fresh opportunity to look at it and make sure that we do not have a Colorado occur here,” Alsobrooks said. “This is the time to look at it, not after something has happened that is God-awful.”
“I think they’re making America a lot more dangerous than it should be,” said gunshot victim Matt Fenton.
Fenton thinks gun laws are way too loose. He’ll never forget the night someone robbed him, shot him and left him to die.
“I said, `OK, now that you’ve got what you want, why don’t you just leave?’ That’s when the guy shot me,” Fenton said.
Under Maryland law, a person can buy 12 guns a year with background checks and training. But if you have a collector’s permit, you can buy many more guns.
“You’d be surprised how many of your neighbors own a lot of firearms,” said Paul Schinol, Constitutional Firearms.
Schinol says anyone eligible to buy a gun in Maryland can fill out a form and get a collector’s permit, allowing them to buy as many guns as they can afford.
“The designated collectors are probably the last people you have to worry about,” he said.
The right to bear arms is guaranteed in the Constitution, so no one monitors what people do once they get their guns.
“We live in a free society. This is America,” said Daniel Statkus.
Statkus is a gun collector and NRA instructor. He doesn’t think the gun collector designation is a bad idea.
“Anything can be abused,” he said. “People have different reasons for doing the things they do. You can’t regulate that. You can’t stop it.”
“I think there are always opportunities to strengthen what we have but I can tell you that I’m concerned about it,” Alsobrooks said. “We’ve seen it play itself out.”
Maryland has some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation. Only two other states and the District of Columbia limit purchases of regulated firearms to one a month without a collector’s permit.