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As Long as We Remember...

April 29, 2013

A Contrast in Firearms Town Hall Meetings

Steven R. Berryman

Last Thursday Frederick County Delegates Michael Hough, Kelly Schulz, Kathy Afzali, and Patrick Hogan met their constituents in a true “town hall” style meeting to cover the state of the Second Amendment in Maryland, now that Gov. Martin O’Malley’s anti-gun bill has become law.


More than a simple change in Maryland law, the collective impact on the local gun culture was actually tantamount to an all out assault on the United States Constitution’s legitimacy in our state.


One activist from the audience suggested that the Republican Delegation should attempt to reincorporate the Founders words on firearms rights and protections from the federal Constitution into the Maryland Constitution. Not much likelihood of that, I am afraid.


A packed American Legion Post #11 hall was standing room only as Marylanders vented their anger. National Rifle Association representative Shannon Alford and Delegate Hough took most of the questions from the audience for almost three solid hours.


Attendees were old and young, gun rights advocates and citizens, gun owners and non-gun owners, hunters, farmers, businessmen, moms and dads, gun shop owners, and those feeling politically disenfranchised. There were almost no dissenters at all, with the possible exception of the attached bar area.


It began with the Pledge of Allegiance, led by County Commissioner Kirby Delauter. Sheriff Chuck Jenkins sat behind me, and in the back I spotted Commissioners Blaine Young and Billy Shreve, along with State Sen. David Brinkley.


Of the anti-gun-group, State Sen. Ron Young was spotted in the bar of the American Legion, but did not enter the Town Hall event to speak or ask questions.


The tone was deadly serious, concerned and polite, but completely under control and orderly. The reading through details of the legislation was as if from a funeral. Citizens were outraged, and many openly discussed leaving the State of Maryland.


At the outset, even before the question was asked, Delegate Afzali answered the question as to why Delegate Neil Parrott reversed his decision to have a petition drive to take the measure to referendum: “It is not a right of the citizens to vote on whether The Constitution is right or wrong.”


Delegate Hough detailed the line-items and fielded direct questions. Yes, you will be able to buy 20-round magazines out of state. Yes, you will be able to give your son or daughter your “grand fathered-in” AR-15 (or variant) as long as it is purchased before October 1. Yes you must essentially register when you buy a new handgun by visiting your Maryland State Police barracks and getting finger printed like a criminal, passing a background check that allows for blocking your purchase on a single “probation before Judgment” decision (in a violent crime); and, yes, you will be paying to take an actual handgun training certification that you must pass.


Comprehensive background checks will be mandatory, in part to put a stop to “straw-purchases,” one in which somebody with a clear record could purchase surreptitiously for a criminal, but by definition, that would always still work. The truth is that of the tens of thousands of citizens denied a handgun in the history of Maryland background checking, there have been but 44 prosecutions. As in the GOPs position on Illegal immigrants, enforce the laws that are already on the books, people…


The reality is that we don’t even enforce the laws on the books, and none of the O’Malley “gun grab” bill would have prevented a Newtown Connecticut tragedy. For instance, responsible storage of guns, with consequences for leaving them too “available,” was never considered. A tax rebate for purchase of a home gun safe?


Certainly the added three months to process a handgun application (estimated) and costs, and red tape, and transfer taxes will amount to a de facto ban in the process; it has already been estimated that there are not even enough gun ranges in Maryland to cover the now-mandated trainings as qualification for purchase…even if all ranges were used all of the time for this exclusive purpose!


And for you budget watchers, know that $4,000,000 will need to be set aside to go to the Maryland State Police to facilitate the backlog of background checks.


Delegate Schulz noted that our delegation offered up and supported 43 proposed amendments to the legislation as compromises, and not a single one was entertained. Just like ObamaCare, it was a download! According to Delegate Hough, the final bill “was crap.”


Delegate Hogan allowed that “It could have been a lot worse.” Not much, IMHO.


Toward the end of the meeting, one in the long line of questioners asked, looking out to the middle-aged crowd, where are the younger people who need to come out and fight for gun owner’s rights in Maryland. The quick-witted Blair Pettrey, a youthful GOP up-and-comer, shouted out “I’m right here” to the delight of the crowd.


Most of the crowd of over 400 and all of the delegates and the hostess from the NRA stayed from 6:15 P.M. to about 10 P.M.


Now, contrast this with reports from The Frederick News-Post and on Facebook about last Saturday’s meeting in Urbana sponsored by the supporters of this new law, including Sens. Ron Young and Brian Frosh.


That forum was advertised as being an open microphone meeting from 10 A.M. to 12.  Published descriptions of the event were that it deteriorated into chaos after only one hour when both senators found an excuse to leave for Hagerstown.


Citizens were not being heard, and cat calls started after about 10 minutes.


It was almost a riot scenario – good thing sheriff’s deputies were present – when it appeared that the attendees, overwhelmingly the same people who attended the Thursday meeting, learned that their voices were not to be heard by the hosts after all, and that this was evidently only a one-way downloading session by senators who made excuses and then ran.


Attendance at this Saturday forum, held at the new Urbana Library, was about one hundred, with the “antis” heavily outnumbered and out gunned. Let’s just say it didn’t go their way.


Although the outcome of this legislation did not go as the GOP had hoped, at a minimum, it has awakened a sleeping giant, and there will be much more to come.


Activist Deborah Senn mentioned that she was now proud to be the newest member of the National Rifle Association.


I’ll bet she didn’t retain that fleeting status for long.


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