Wednesday I traveled to Annapolis to testify in opposition to SB 281, the painfully misnamed “Firearms Safety Act of 2013.” I was not alone. Media outlets counted “hundreds” but there were probably at least 5,000. According to the office of Senate Judiciary Proceedings Committee Chairman Brian Frosh, 2,444 people originally signed up to testify. Another 200 or so signed handwritten sheets to voice their opinions. Within the Miller Senate Office Building, the hearing room and two overflow rooms were closed as they reached their rated capacity. The hallways were jammed with people. Thousands of people milled about the State House courtyard outside.
I was told it was likely the largest crowd ever signed up to testify in Maryland history. They have not taken a count of supporters vs. opponents, but most opposed.
There were actually four gun-related bills slated for discussion: SB 281, SB 266, SB 420 and SB 228, but the primary focus was SB 281. Hearings began at approximately 1:00 p.m. Chairman Frosh allotted eight hours for testimony, four hours for each side.
Governor O’Malley began the testimony, stating in his remarks that they were only making “sensible” proposals and weren’t trying to take away anyone’s gun rights. In response, Carroll County Senator Joseph Getty relayed concerns from retired law enforcement members in his community who had faced death threats from criminals, afraid their gun rights would be lost. O’Malley replied without irony that there would be exceptions for law enforcement.
Thirty-three people testified in support of the bill, primarily Democrats in various state and local government posts who Governor O’Malley could rely on for political support, and a few “expert witnesses.” A few local leftist advocacy groups also testified. They told us not to worry about the Second Amendment because, after all, the U.S. Constitution was a “living document.” They added that Bigfoot has been sighted in Montgomery County, butterflies are free and unicorns really do fly.
The last few O’Malley supporters trailed out of the building before 8 p.m., but at that point Chairman Frosh said there were still over 1,000 opponents who had not yet spoken. He cut off further testimony at 9 p.m., but allowed those still waiting to come to the podium and announce their names. When I left at 9:30, there remained a line that stretched out of the hearing room, down the hall, around the corner, along the main hallway and down the stairs to the first floor.
As is typically the case, the O’Malley crowd trotted out an endless stream of straw-man arguments to plead support for this awful legislation. Proponents described the gruesome impacts of gun wounds, the violent-crime rate, scary magazine capacities of some semi-automatic firearms, and the entirely false characterization of “assault” weapons subject to this new legislation as machine guns.
Yes, these are straw-man arguments. We all know that gunshots cause terrible wounds. We all know that people are wounded and killed every year by other people with guns, and we all agree it is tragic. But it is utterly irrelevant to this debate because restrictions and/or bans on firearms—or any weapon of criminal choice for that matter—don’t affect criminal behavior in any material way. Virtually no crime is committed with legally owned firearms. Last week, Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker told Bill Maher:
“In the analysis of gun murders and shootings in my city, I could only find one in the entire time I’ve been mayor—and unfortunately there have been hundreds and hundreds—where a person who was involved in a shooting where they had their gun legally, where they legally acquired their gun. The guns that are causing carnage in our cities, my city and our country, every single year are acquired illegally.”