Maryland gun laws would not have stopped Navy Yard shooter

Maryland's gun laws are widely considered tougher than those of neighboring Virginia, but they would not have stopped the Navy Yard shooter from buying a shotgun and walking out of a store with it the same day.

Authorities said Aaron Alexis' Monday shooting spree that killed 12 in Washington began with a 12-gauge, 870 Remington pump-action shotgun. He had purchased it two days before from a Virginia gun shop.

If Alexis — who police said had brushes with the law and showed signs of mental illness — had visited a Maryland gun store instead, he would have been able to walk out with the same gun.

Most of Maryland's strict laws about background checks, waiting periods and purchase limits apply only to regulated firearms, which in most cases means handguns and assault rifles, Maryland State Police spokesman Greg Shipley said.

For traditional rifles and shotguns, buyers don't have to undergo any training or the more stringent 16-database background check that has caused months-long backups. The law limiting buyers to one gun per month does not apply.

To buy a traditional rifle — not an assault rifle — or a shotgun in Maryland, a buyer must undergo a federal instant background check, the same standard Alexis passed in Virginia.

A sweeping new gun control bill takes effect Oct. 1, but nothing in that legislation would have stopped the gun purchase by Alexis in Maryland either.

ecox@baltsun.com