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February 19, 2013

An Irresponsible Editorial

Steve Gottlieb

On February 8, editors at The Frederick News Post sank to an all-time low with the editorial entitled “Fanning the flames.” In what can only be called journalistic misfeasance, they misrepresented the testimony of Sheriff Chuck Jenkins before the Maryland state Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.


The News-Post purposely and deceitfully chose to cherry pick two comments from the sheriff’s testimony and – with malice aforethought –misrepresented them to its readers.


The first statement they mention was actually made near the very end of his testimony as he was describing for the committee what law enforcement fears could happen given the heightened emotions surrounding the issue of gun control. What Sheriff Jenkins said was “In closing, there is one thing I hope you take away with my testimony. There is a very deep personal and emotion bond between individuals and their firearms, and their right to defend. My worst fear as sheriff is that good people may die in trying to confiscate firearms, and good people may also die in trying to keep their guns.”


The News-Post claims the statement was pure demagoguery and feeds hysteria, when what the sheriff is actually doing was providing information that might very well be based on factual intelligence disseminated throughout the law enforcement community. The editors certainly did not present the entire quote or its context.


He was absolutely doing his job and providing lawmakers with facts of what their illegal and irresponsible actions might instigate. It is the News-Post’s editorial staff choosing to demagogue this issue; not the sheriff. The fact our county’s chief law enforcement officer is concerned about the well-being of all citizens, including law enforcement, is a testament to his dedication to the people of Frederick County. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the News-Post’s editorial staff.


Later in their commentary the News-Post is concerned that Sheriff Jenkins commented on his job being to uphold and protect the constitutional rights of the citizens of Frederick County. What his written testimony says is: “As the sheriff of my county, it is my responsibility not only to enforce the laws but to protect the constitutional rights of my citizens.”


By providing his testimony, the sheriff was clearly doing his job in bringing to light the constitutional issues involved with House Bill 294/Senate Bill 281. The News-Post knows full well what the sheriff meant with his statement. It is obvious their presentation of the facts is meant to discredit an honorable man standing up for the citizens of Frederick County.


What the News-Post did not say was that during his testimony the sheriff not only pointed out the bad things the bill does to law-abiding citizens of Maryland, but also the reality that this bill will be ineffective in preventing crime and protecting our citizens. He also listed five common sense steps that could be taken to help protect Maryland citizens from gun violence as much as is humanly possible.


In their editorial the News-Post states: “Nowhere in our reading of the governor's legislation do we see a provision that would allow jack-booted government thugs into gun owners' homes to ‘confiscate’ their legally owned firearms.”


The editor then goes on to say: “But nothing would retroactively force those who possess such weapons to surrender them under duress.” This is quite a statement given some of the language used in the bill. For example as stated in Section 4-303 (a): “Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section, a person may not: (2) possess, sell, offer to sell, transfer, purchase, or receive an assault [pistol] WEAPON.” The same section continues in (b) (1): “A person who lawfully possessed an assault pistol before June 1,1994, and who registered the assault pistol with the Secretary of State Police before August 1, 1994, may:


[(1)] (I) continue to possess the assault pistol; or


[(2)] (II) while carrying a court order requiring the surrender of the assault pistol, transport the assault pistol directly to the law enforcement unit, barracks, or station if the person has notified the law enforcement unit, barracks, or station that the person is transporting the assault pistol in accordance with a court order and the assault pistol is unloaded.”


The bill is very clear when it states in Section 4–304: “A law enforcement unit may seize as contraband and dispose of according to regulation an assault [pistol] WEAPON transported, sold, transferred, purchased, received, or possessed in violation of this subtitle.” These sure seem like ominous words.


If this bill becomes law it will immediately turn previously law-abiding citizens into criminals in violation of the Constitution of the United States. This legislation does give Maryland authorities the right to confiscate weapons if they are not illegally registered. Given Gov. Martin O’Malley’s propensity to violate our constitutional rights in an effort to build his progressive bona fides so he can make his run for president in 2016, maybe it is appropriate that Maryland state police wear brown uniforms. This is not to cast aspersions on the police officers themselves, for they are fine public servants, but only to comment on how they might be used in the very near future.


While the News-Post certainly has the right to express editorial opinion, it should do so in a fair and forthright manner. To attack a public servant, who is only looking out for the best interests of his constituents under the law, is a despicable act. If they intend to be the governor’s mouthpiece, if they intend to be an instrument of support in the violation of our constitutional rights, and if they intend to mislead the public on issues of fact in editorials, they should say so up front so everyone is aware of their motives and agenda.


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