Lest we think the tragic killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida has little legal relevance for our Washington metro area, think again. All eyes should be on the state of Maryland. The U.S. Court of Appeals' decision recently regarding concealed-carry permits means that Maryland residents no longer must show a "good and substantial reason" to carry a handgun outside.
Thanks to this one federal judge's decision -- a decision that the Washington Post editorial board thinks should be appealed -- we can expect to see Maryland's high rates of violence increase.
Already Maryland is one of the ten most violent states in America, with the third highest rates of homicide, the ninth highest rates of violent crime and the tenth highest rates of police employees per capita.
In our rankings on the U.S. Peace Index -- an index that ranks states by their levels of peacefulness -- we look at five indicators of violence: homicide, violent crime, incarceration, police per capita, and availability of small arms.
Maryland ranked 41st on the 2011 U.S. Peace Index, a ranking that could worsen given the latest news coming out of U.S. District Judge Benson Everett Legg's courtroom.
By removing the requirement to show a good and substantial reason to carry a handgun in public, it makes it all the easier to increase Maryland's homicide and violent crime rates.
Maryland's high rates of violence are already costing almost $10 billion annually. As Governor O'Malley pursues creative deficit-cutting measures like increasing the gas tax to balance budget deficits, he should keep in mind that Maryland's high rates of violent crime and homicide undermine limited money supply, not only in medical costs and lost economic productivity (at $1.3 million per homicide), but also in the high costs associated with incarceration.
If the governor wants to boost Maryland budgets, then he should cut costs from containing violence. The way to do that is to lower Maryland's scores on the five indicators previously mentioned. The ruling by the US District Judge to unfetter the carrying of weapons in public, however, does just the opposite.
Michael Shank is the US Vice President at the Institute for Economics and Peace. Michael is an Associate at the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict, serves on the board of the National Peace Academy, and is in the PhD Program at George Mason University's School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution.
Follow Michael Shank, Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Michael_Shank