A 43-year-old businessman was shot to death in front of his store while on the phone with his wife. This murder occurred less than 3 blocks from Harbor East in Baltimore the other evening.

Baltimore has a very serious gun problem. There are over 325 million guns in the country and 12 million new guns are added each year. Maybe there are now over 350 million guns in the United States. The point is, they are abundant, more than one for every resident of this country, and anyone can get one.  Anyone.  Add to this, no politician can make them disappear. They are with us to stay, and I will explain why below.

Federal law makes possession by, and transfer of, guns to certain people illegal. Federal background checks are designed to prevent licensed gun dealers from selling guns to these people, e.g. felons, domestic violence offenders, fugitives from justice and the like, listed in 18 U.S.C. 922(g) as prohibited persons. If you have a state-legal prescription for medical cannabis you are a prohibited person.

These killers don’t get their guns through legal sources.  They get their guns from friends and relatives; if that source is not available, there is a huge secondary market comprised of non-dealers who sell face to face in states where restrictions don’t exist. In states with harsh restrictions, like Maryland, 80% of guns acquired on the secondary market originate in states with lax restrictions. In other words, guns migrate from states like Virginia to states like Maryland.

Some say get rid of all guns.  That proposition is absurd fancy. Period.  If those speakers had any legal knowledge whatsoever, they would understand that the United States Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller held in 2008 that an individual has a right to possess a gun in the home for self-defense.  That means guns can’t be abolished, but they can be regulated.  Trouble with regulations, however, is that only law-abiding people will adhere to regulations and laws.  The lawless won’t. They scoff at laws.

The Heller decision, under the doctrine of stare decisis, will be the law of the land for decades and decades. As the Supreme Court make up changes, the law could become more liberal in favor of the Second Amendment and the right to arm up. That will mean even more guns in circulation and more prohibited people able to acquire guns.

So here’s the point of all of this.  The lawless have ample access to guns.  They get them, they carry them, and they have no hesitation to use them.  In Baltimore, this year we are approaching 350 murders.  In addition to these murders, most of which are by gun, there are many other non-fatal shootings.

In DeShaney v. Winnebago County and Castle Rock v. Gonzales the Supreme Court held the police do not have a duty to protect us from crimes, even if the police were in a position to do so but did not.  The job of the police is to catch criminals. Crime is out of control (that’s not hyperbole, that’s a recent quote from our Mayor after some gang of kids beat up tourists at Harbor Place in daylight).

Baltimore’s citizens are in danger. In addition to murder, carjackings are also out of control. Yet, the State will not allow a responsible and law-abiding citizen the right to arm him or herself for protection outside of the house.  Although nearly 40 states allow their responsible and law-abiding citizens to carry guns for self-protection without having to show cause why they have a need to do so, Maryland does not. But keep in mind these restrictions on the right to engage in self-defense were proposed and passed by people who enjoy drivers, armed state police guards and work in secure buildings with metal detectors and armed police guarding their safety.

Until the State and the city can protect its citizens, until crime is no longer “out of control,” responsible and law-abiding citizens must be able protect their lives from the actions of irresponsible, gun-toting criminals who have no compunction about taking away that which is most precious for only a few dollars gained.

I am heading to the range. Merry Christmas.  Be safe.

Jim Astrachan (jastrachan@agtlawyers.com)