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April 8, 2013

The General Asylum At Work

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

An abundance of power encourages arrogance, and access to unlimited power encourages moral and ethical collapse. Nowhere is this truer than in the Maryland General Assembly.


For dedicated readers, that seems like a statement of the obvious. Sadly, each blatant instance of the arrogant exercise of power in the legislature moves us farther from a representative democracy and closer to a dangerously tone deaf ideological monopoly.


Pick the policy arena: healthcare, education, the environment, guns or taxes. In every case, as Gov. Martin O'Malley moves closer to his goal of establishing the standard for progressive governance as he builds his 2016 presidential platform, Maryland regulations are shoved further left across the board.


If all five million Marylanders lived in the Democratic strongholds of Montgomery County, Prince George’s County and the City of Baltimore, then the actions of the governor and legislative branch wouldn't even raise an eyebrow.


Unfortunately, even in a 2-1 Democrat-to-Republican voter registration state like ours, there are large pockets of resistance, geographic concentrations of conservative voters who expect and demand a voice, albeit a small one.


That won't be the case on the issue of gun control, though. To satisfy the O'Malley national campaign dream, Maryland legislators pushed the most liberal bill in the country through their tightly-controlled process.


The O'Malley gun bill outlaws high capacity magazines. It forbids the sale of the largest list of specific firearms since the now-defunct federal assault weapons ban. In a move not even contemplated by other states, this bill will also require the collection of fingerprints for certain firearm purchases.


Instead of addressing the real problem, which stems from the use of guns in the commission of criminal acts, the governor and his willing co-conspirators in the General Assembly are set to restrict the Second Amendment freedoms of law-abiding gun owners.


The audio portion of the Second Reader debate on the governor's gun grab ran on Tuesday night for those with the intestinal fortitude to listen to it. It was high-theater, General Assembly style.


The bill's floor leader, House Judiciary Committee Vice Chair Kathleen Dumais (D, Montgomery), is a classic Montgomery County progressive. It would be a surprise if Delegate Dumais had ever picked up a firearm in her life, much less ever fired one.


She didn't need any actual, physical knowledge of guns to lead the way for the governor's gun ban. She started off seven hours of debate with the advanced knowledge that she already had the votes.


Remember Weldon's Irrefutable Rule of the House: They won't bring a controversial bill to the floor if they don't know that they have the votes in advance. Mystery in the legislative process is not a highly valued phenomenon.


So, Ms. Dumais did her level best to place the blame for gun crime on the millions of legal gun owners. In her world, if you say it's illegal to own an assault weapon, somehow magically all of the criminals in possession of those weapons will immediately surrender them to the proper authorities.


Just because Governor O'Malley, in his rush to prepare for higher office, says high capacity ammunition cartridges are bad, the progressives believe that criminals will stop using them.


Republican and conservative Democratic House members did their best to counter these blatantly false premises. Notable for the cogency and consistency of their arguments were Frederick County's own Michael Hough (R, Dist. 3B) and Kelly Schulz (R, Dist. 4A). Both were outstanding during the debate.


The highlight was House Minority Leader Tony O'Donnell, himself an avid turkey hunter and sport shooter. Tony was at his absolute best, funny when possible, outraged when required. No one knows gun laws better than Delegate O'Donnell, and most people look like fools when they try to best him in a debate on this subject.


Sadly, most Marylanders don't follow floor debates, even on a bill of such import. Had they been listening the other night, they would know who supports the essential freedoms enshrined in our founding documents and who casually dismisses them.


They would have heard Speaker Michael Busch (D., Anne Arundel) direct a sitting delegate's floor microphone to be disconnected during his remarks, they would have heard the derisive snickering from the majority too gutless to stand and be heard as they made fun of those who did, and they would have heard the best and worst of the legislative process playing out on the most important issue of the day.


Remember that the arrogance and the disregard they showed for Second Amendment rights will manifest again. You may not care so much about the Second Amendment. Next time, though, those arrogant legislators just happen to show up on an issue that matters to you!


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