Governor Larry Hogan today announced a series of new initiatives, including new funding, an executive order, and emergency legislation. He also voiced his support for existing legislative proposals to enhance safety in Maryland schools; increase coordination among schools, state agencies, and law enforcement; and keep firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill and individuals with violent criminal records.
“There is no more important job than keeping our citizens safe – especially our children. In the wake of the horrific school shooting in Parkland, Florida, citizens here in our state and all across America want to know what government at all levels is doing to keep our children safe, and what we are collectively doing to stop gun violence and violent crime,” said Governor Hogan. “Classrooms should never be a place of fear for our children. No mom or dad should ever have to worry when they send their kids off to school whether their son or daughter is going to come home safely.”
The governor was joined by Dr. Karen Salmon, state Superintendent of Schools; Glenn Fueston, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Crime Control & Prevention (GOCCP); and Ed Clarke, executive director of the Maryland Center for School Safety. Governor Hogan attended the National Governors Association winter meeting in Washington, D.C. this past weekend, where he discussed strategies and best practices for school safety with governors from both parties.
Maryland has already enacted many of the measures that other states are currently considering, including some of the toughest gun laws in the nation. Recent Hogan administration initiatives have strengthened emergency response procedures and agency cooperation, and the Maryland Center for School Safety is the only center of its kind in the nation to be housed in the state’s law enforcement fusion center.
“Great work is already being done to ensure the safety of Maryland’s students and its schools,” said the governor, referencing recent successful law enforcement interventions in Frederick, St. Mary’s, and Montgomery Counties. “Incidents like this here in Maryland and all across the country make it very clear that we absolutely must remain vigilant when it comes to protecting our kids, and we absolutely must do more.”
To bolster school security efforts in the state, Governor Hogan announced that the administration would commit an additional $125 million to accelerate and enhance safety improvements in schools, including secure doors and windows, metal detectors, security cameras, panic buttons, and other capital improvements, as well as an additional $50 million in operating funds each year for new school safety grants, which could be used for school resource officers, counselors, and additional safety technology. The funding will be allocated through the governor’s education lockbox proposal, which provides an additional $4.4 billion in education spending from casino revenues.
The governor also announced that he will submit emergency legislation to create Maryland’s first statewide school safety standards, including required training and certification for all school resource officers and security staff. The legislation will require all school systems to conduct an annual school safety assessment and develop plans to address behavioral threats and emergency situations. The plans will be subject to approval by the Maryland State Board of Education and overseen by the Maryland Center for School Safety.
As an immediate step to activate the emergency legislation, the governor announced that he will submit a supplemental budget on Friday, March 2, that provides an additional $5 million for the Maryland Center for School Safety, an increase in funding of 600 percent. The funding will enable the center to hire analysts and social media trackers, allocate staff in more regions of the state, and assist schools with conducting the mandated safety assessments.
To prevent, prepare for, and respond to threats all across the state, Governor Hogan announced that he signed Executive Order 01.01.2018.08 directing all state agencies to develop, review, and update internal plans, policies, and procedures related to active assailant events, and to participate in a coordinated active assailant initiative that includes collaboration with public and non-governmental partners.
To take immediate action to further restrict access to guns for individuals with mental illnesses or a violent criminal background, the governor announced support for several targeted initiatives, including:
- Support for “red flag” legislation, which allows family members or law enforcement to petition the court for an order that would prohibit an individual from possessing firearms or ammunition if they were deemed by a judge to be a danger to themselves or others.
- Federal action to institute a universal background check system, which the governor has supported since his campaign.
- Support for legislation to strengthen and clarify current law to prohibit an individual convicted of domestic violence from possessing firearms, which was a factor in the recent murder of Prince George’s County Police Corporal Mujahid Ramzziddin.
- Support for legislation banning “bump stocks.”
Finally, the governor highlighted his proposed legislation to toughen penalties for individuals committing violent crimes with guns, who are predominantly responsible for the nearly 350 murders in Baltimore City last year. Many of the policies in the administration’s violent crime package are making progress in the Maryland senate under the leadership of Judicial Proceedings Committee Chairman Sen. Bobby Zirkin.
“I want to be very clear: my most important responsibility is keeping the citizens of Maryland safe, and the most important responsibility we all have is to keep our children safe. Let’s get it done together,” concluded the governor.