Carter said she had not known her brother owned a handgun but was told by police that he had bought it legally.
Maryland recently passed a law that will make it tougher to buy such guns. One of the toughest gun control measures in the country, Maryland’s law requires licensing, fingerprinting, and safety training to purchase a handgun, bans the sale of 45 types of assault weapons and limits ammunition magazine capacity to 10 rounds.
The National Rifle Association, the most powerful gun rights lobby in the country, is expected to challenge the Maryland statute in the courts, delaying its going into force.
Maryland is among several states that passed tougher gun control measures in response to the Connecticut school shooting, even as the push for stricter federal laws died in the Senate. Among them was Colorado, a state with a proud frontier tradition where gun ownership is common.
That has given hope to some advocates that gun control might be gaining ground despite fierce opposition by the deep-pocketed NRA, which spends heavily in U.S. elections. Although Republicans and a handful of Democrats in the Senate defeated the push for expanded background checks, polls at the time showed that about 90 percent of Americans favor such a measure.
Maryland has routinely had the 2nd highest homicide rate per 100,000 residents of all 50 states, despite also having the 5th highest per capita income. It had a gun deaths rate of 6.8 per 100,000 in 2011, more than 2 percentage points higher than the national average of 4.7 per 100,000.
That is due in large part to crime in Prince Georges County and the economically hard-hit city of Baltimore, according to the FBI and Census Bureau. Gun deaths have fallen dramatically in Prince Georges as the county government implements aggressive policies to build up the six most troubled neighborhoods, from programs to keep students in school to better street lighting, road repairs and demolition of abandoned buildings. The number of homicides has fallen from a high of 169 in 2005 to 64 last year.
Homicides are dropping similarly in other U.S. cities, prompting some to argue stricter gun measures are not needed to combat daily violence. But Prince Georges police chief Mark Magaw has welcomed Maryland’s tough new gun law as a strong crime-fighting tool in his still-violent county.
So does Carter, who told her story at a gathering of other women coping with the loss of family members to gun violence. They have all been counseled by a group known as Community Advocates for Family and Youth.
Carter, now a board member of the organization, said she was still suffering despite sessions with police department psychologists when she found CAFY. Her husband had died of leukemia just five months before her son was killed.
“I thought, ‘my God couldn’t do that to me,’” she said.
Carter dabbed away tears as she recalled the early December morning 3 ½ years ago when the phone rang with the news of her son’s death.
“My son was my only child. I don’t have any grandchildren, and now I don’t have hope of any,” she said. “My son was two classes short of graduating with a dual degree.”
In the passing weeks, Carter said she noticed that her father appeared increasingly depressed. She figured it was a natural reaction to the tragedy — until he killed himself.
Her brother will be out of prison in about two years, serving a sentence shortened because he accepted a plea deal. Carter doesn’t know if she can forgive him.
“I love my brother. I’ve known him longer than my son. I changed his diapers,” she said. But when he’s released, “I just can’t see us having a relationship.”