Maryland government, school, law enforcement and health officials spoke before a packed audience Wednesday in Rockville about the state’s new proposed gun legislation.
It was the last of three meetings Maryland state officials held to discuss proposed changes to Maryland’s gun laws, and it produced heated but civil conversation.
The purpose of the meeting was to “amplify the voice” of people who could not or would not speak in Annapolis, Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown said at the beginning of the meeting.
“In too many neighborhoods, too many men and women have gone to too many funerals,” he said.
Col. Marcus Brown, the superintendent of the Maryland State Police, said, “It’s time to put an end to the unacceptable level of gun violence we’ve all witnessed.”
The proposed legislation would ban sales of so-called assault weapons, lower the capacity of magazines to a maximum of 10 rounds, create a fingerprint database of handgun owners, require background checks for handgun sales and increase the focus on school safety, including creating a “Maryland Center for School Safety,” among other measures.
Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Secretary Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein said the legislation would help combat gun violence in the case of actual incidents of violence, but also reduce “the circles of tragedy that emanate” from those incidents.
Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Lillian M. Lowery said schools would be updating their emergency plans and would receive federal funding to help improve school safety.
“Districts will be able to determine best the needs for individual schools,” she said, adding that upgrades could include buzzers, automated locks on doors or other measures.
Attendees of the meeting were skeptical and passionate. One person equated the measures to “putting a stop sign in front of a stop sign to make an intersection safer,” before calling for an end to the “asinine” restrictions placed on police.
One speaker suggested that gun owners have to buy liability insurance to compensate victims.
Don L. Rondeau, president of Total Security Services International, worried the new legislation might force veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder to have to choose between mental health care and their Second Amendment rights.
“I will not pay to exercise my Second Amendment rights,” he said, rejecting the idea of liability insurance.
That brought a quick rebuke from Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett, who said the idea that the Second Amendment can’t have parameters is “a foreign concept.”
“You don’t make the law,” he said to Rondeau.
Doug Smith, another attendee, told government officials, “You’re not going to stop this ... People who are criminals won’t abide by your laws.”
Steve Myers, another opponent of the legislation, called the bill poorly written and said it could make Maryland unpopular for hunters and sportshooters.
Joey Sandler, 15, was there in his Scout uniform. He attended the meeting to fulfill a requirement for his Communications merit badge, he said, but he does go shooting with his troop once or twice a year.
He hopes to join the military some day, he said, but he is still deciding on which branch that would be. In the meantime, however, he said, “I believe that if the right people have guns and enough of them have guns, the people who commit crimes would think twice.”