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Effort To Ease Gun Application Backlog Causes New Controversy

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Marylanders in a rush to get guns before the new state restrictions take effect are clogging the system. Now the governor's solution to moving thousands of applications through the background checks is causing controversy.

Political reporter Pat Warren explains the issue is privacy.

The clock is ticking. People want their guns but state police can't process applications fast enough. The state's new Firearms Safety Act--which takes effect Oct. 1--has created a run on guns. More than 72,000 applications have been filed.  That's an average of 2,300 a week, three times the number filed in 2010.

To help process those applications, employees in other departments, including Health and Mental Hygiene, Transportation, Public Safety and Human Resources, were put on data entry duty.

"We're looking at this as a team, the Team Maryland, a team of other state employees who do data entry," said Greg Shipley, Maryland State Police.

That drew fire. Some lawmakers say it violates the privacy of gun owners to give other agencies their personal information.

Harford County Executive David Craig, a candidate for governor, is one of them.

"They'll know your house, they'll know your criminal background, they'll know other weapons that you own," Craig said.

Shipley says 32,000 applications have been entered using data entry people from other agencies.

"We needed data entry done. It was appropriate to use them. There was nothing illegal about it and we did it appropriately to eliminate our backlog and ensure firearms don't get to the wrong people," Shipley said.

Craig says the decision could have been challenged.

"And the problem with that is it will all be finished by the time any of that could go to court. That will all have been resolved and say, `Oh, it was illegal' or `It wasn't ethical' but by that time, it'd all be over, so the governor's able to kick the ball down the road on that one," Craig said.

The question remains, will all of the background checks be processed by the deadline?

As of Oct. 1, Marylanders who purchase guns will be fingerprinted and required to take lessons. Restrictions on types of weapons also take effect.

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