Public Safety and Gun Violence Prevention

Every Marylander deserves to feel safe in their home and community. Senator Van Hollen is a champion for common-sense measures to end the disgraceful epidemic of gun violence that results in more than 45,000 deaths every year, nationwide – and claims the life of one Marylander every 13 hours. In the Maryland state legislature, Van Hollen was a key advocate for gun safety and led the push to require that guns sold in our state have built-in trigger locks to reduce accidental gun deaths. He has supported the state’s efforts to ban assault weapons and close loopholes. But Maryland is not an island, and more than half of the traced guns recovered here were purchased in other states. To end gun violence in our communities, we must pass common-sense reforms at the national level. 

The list of common-sense measures we must pass is clear: close the gun show loophole and implement universal background checks; ban semi-automatic assault weapons like the AR-15; limit the number of rounds in magazines; to implement red flag laws to prevent individuals who are a danger to themselves or others from accessing guns; outlaw bump stocks; and eliminate the law that shields the gun industry from lawsuits for wrongdoing. Senator Van Hollen has also championed legislation to create a national permit-to-purchase handgun system modeled after Maryland’s handgun licensing law. States with in-person handgun licensing laws have a 56% lower risk of mass shootings than states without handgun licensing laws, and it’s time to enact this model on a national scale.

We also must enforce our existing gun laws, and Senator Van Hollen has helped lead the call to reform the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the federal agency charged with protecting the public from violent criminals, criminal organizations, and the illegal use of trafficking of firearms. For too long, barriers erected by gun-industry hardliners have hampered ATF’s ability to crack down on illegal gun trafficking and the small number of reckless gun dealers who are responsible for selling most of the guns that fall into dangerous hands. That’s why Senator Van Hollen is working to eliminate those obstacles so ATF can truly meet its public safety mission and reduce gun violence. 

Efforts to reduce gun violence must go hand-in-hand with additional initiatives to strengthen public safety and restore trust between police officers and the communities they serve. A central tenet of that mission is updating how we respond to emergencies. Not every crisis situation requires police to be the first responders, and Senator Van Hollen’s Community-Based Response Act would invest in systematic alternatives to police involvement for those situations where a use-of-force option is not required – putting the needs of our residents first, helping treat mental illness and drugs as a public health concern rather than a criminal justice concern, and ensuring law enforcement is available to respond to the situations they are trained for and best suited to handle. 

Additionally, as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Van Hollen has worked to deliver public safety resources to communities across Maryland. He was a key leader in the successful push to have Baltimore City included within the Department of Justice’s Public Safety Partnership (PSP) program, which helps cities invest in crime prevention strategies, and he continues to meet with partners at the Department of Justice (DOJ) and throughout our communities to discuss how we can improve safety in Maryland. To bolster public safety in Baltimore, Senator Van Hollen and colleagues in the Maryland congressional delegation are engaged in ongoing discussions with Attorney General Merrick Garland to continue to increase the number of ATF agents, deputy U.S. Marshals, and prosecutors working with local authorities to target violent crime and illegal guns. In addition, Baltimore City Mayor Brandon Scott has committed to using $50 million from the American Rescue Plan – which Senator Van Hollen helped craft and pass through the Senate – to fund violence prevention efforts in the city over the next three years. Senator Van Hollen has also worked with colleagues to confront MS-13 gang violence in Montgomery and Prince George's Counties by supporting funding for gang prevention and suppression efforts, and he continues to fight for more resources to combat gang violence in our communities.

Those efforts must be accompanied by additional investments in neighborhood organizations focused on violence prevention, and Senator Van Hollen strongly supports President Biden’s call to deliver $5 billion in federal funding to the DOJ and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to invest in programs that have been proven to help reduce violent crime. Combatting violent crime is one piece of a larger mission to strengthen Maryland communities. That mission also calls for extending new opportunities to all Marylanders through investments in schools, after school programs, mentorship opportunities, and other initiatives that help communities thrive. Senator Van Hollen is committed to doing just that, and he is working in our nation’s capital and at the grassroots level to expand opportunities for all

Senator Van Hollen has also secured federal dollars for firefighters and emergency responders throughout our state to ensure that our local governments have the resources they need to keep communities safe. In addition, Senator Van Hollen has brought in funding to religious and non-profit organizations in Maryland through the Nonprofit Security Grant Program to protect organizations like churches, synagogues, and mosques that are at risk of attacks.

Senator Van Hollen is committed to strengthening Maryland communities and ensuring their safety from without and within.