Harford Politicians, Many Marylanders Speak Out on Gun Bill
More than 1,000 people lined up to testify against the Firearm Safety Act of 2013.
By Lucas High and Allen Etzler, CAPITAL NEWS SERVICE
After the Senate passed one of the strictest gun control bills in the nation this week, Gov. Martin O’Malley told two House committees Friday that if his bill “saves even one more life, it’s as if we’ve saved the world.”
The bill must still pass through the House of Delegates.
Opponents, stinging over their defeat in the Senate, turned out en masse Friday to testify against the Firearm Safety Act of 2013, which they consider a violation of their Second Amendment rights.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph F. Vallario Jr., D-Prince George’s, said 950 people were signed up to testify on the bill when the hearing started Friday, and names were still being added to the list.
"Firearms represent our liberty and are the keystone to our independence," Delegate Glen Glass, R-Harford/Cecil, wrote on Patch. Glass said he heard testimony from "freedom-loving Marylanders" who opposed the proposed gun law. Said Glass: "I will vote against HB 294/SB 281."
O’Malley brought a cadre of law enforcement personnel and gun policy experts with him to testify in support of the bill.
- banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines
- requiring licensing and fingerprinting for handgun purchases
- increasing funding for school security
- restricting firearm access for the mentally ill
The licensing requirement and its controversial fingerprinting component were nearly stripped from the Senate version of the bill in the amendment process.
Senator Nancy Jacobs, R-Harford/Cecil told The Washington Post that she opposed the bill—in particular, the lengthy registration process and eight-hour training required to purchase a gun, mandatory even for previous gun owners.
Gun violence in Maryland is a “public health epidemic,” said James W. Johnson, Baltimore County’s chief of police, urging delegates to keep the bill's strongest restrictions intact.
“(Handgun licensing) will help law enforcement,” Johnson said Friday in Annapolis.
During the question-and-answer portion of the hearings, Delegate John Cluster Jr., R-Baltimore County, questioned the need for an assault rifle ban given that none of the murders in Maryland last year were committed with an assault weapon.
“Why would you want to wait for the first one?” responded Scott Shellenberger, Baltimore County state’s attorney. “I’m sure there weren’t any (assault weapon murders) in Newtown last year, either.”
Opponents of the bill stressed that the legislation would curtail citizens’ Second Amendment rights.
Jacobs said she had received more than 6,000 emails and hundreds of calls from constituents in support of the Second Amendment as of mid-February, according to The Washington Post.
“It is wrong for the state of Maryland to require a license to exercise a fundamental right,” said Shannon Alford, state liaison for the National Rifle Association.
Among the many problems Alford said she had with the bill, the biggest one is the assault weapons ban. The features being targeted in the ban “are merely accessories and don’t enhance the lethality of the weapon,” Alford said.
Jacobs agreed, stating on her website: "It is unfortunate that many...are so uninformed with regards to what an assault rifle is."
The term assault rifle, Jacobs continued, is a "misrepresented title" referring to a semi-automatic rifle that requires pulling the trigger to release a single round; Jacobs said these rifles appear similar to what armed forces use but they are not.
Delegate Michael Hough, R-Frederick, called O’Malley’s use of the words military-style weapons “a scare tactic.”
As more than 1,000 people—many of them gun rights supporters—lined up outside the Lowe House Office Building in Annapolis Friday to testify on the governor's gun control legislation, hundreds of gun control advocates rallied across the street with the governor.
Vincent DeMarco, national coordinator of the Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, led the crowd in chants, saying “save lives now” many times during the rally. O’Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown also addressed the crowd in support of the gun bill.
Signs covered Lawyer’s Mall in front of the State House pleading to halt gun violence.
“Licensing (and) fingerprinting could have saved my father’s life,” one sign read.
Many gun rights activists displayed signs of their own as they waited to testify.
“Why can politicians be protected by Secret Service with assault weapons but I can’t protect my family with one?” a sign read.
Gun rights activists are formally set to protest on Tuesday during the Second Amendment Freedom Rally.
What do you think of the proposed gun legislation? Tell us in the comments!