In the run up to February hearings about new proposed gun regulations, Bowie-area legislators heard from about 70 area residents Saturday regarding their thoughts on the restrictions.
Delegates Marvin Holmes (D-Dist. 23B) of Kettering, James Hubbard (D-Dist. 23A) of Bowie, Geraldine Valentino-Smith (D-Dist. 23A) of Bowie and State Sen. Douglas Peters (D-Dist. 23) of Bowie met with area residents at the Kenhill Center in Bowie.
Senate Bill 281, a measure co-sponsored by Peters and supported by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), would add a variety of new restrictions for gun ownerships including banning the sale of assault weapons. The push for greater gun control comes in the wake of several high-profile mass shootings, such as one at Sandy Hook Elementary in December that left 28 people dead.
Restricting the sale and use of guns to law-abiding citizens wouldn’t make Marylanders safer, Don Pollock of Bowie said.
“They’re looking at an inanimate object and saying if they control that inanimate object they can solve the issue,” he said.
To reduce gun violence, the state should instead be focusing on keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill by enforcing existing laws on the books and working better with health officials to identify those with mental illness and keep firearms out of their hands, Pollock said.
“It’s a very fine line,” he said. “You have to make a distinction between those who are flustered with life and those who need deep psychological help.”
While attention was focused on the gun control aspects of the bill, SB 281 also addresses concerns about keeping guns away from the mentally ill, Peters said. The bill includes language that denies a firearms license to those whose mental state is in question, such as if a person has been found incompetent to stand trial or is under the guardianship of another.
The passage of SB 281 would be enough to push David Jones of Bowie to leave the state, said the retired lieutenant colonel in the Air Force.
“It’s a fundamental right,” he said. “Once we lose that, what’s next?”
While the majority of speakers were against gun control, some such as Darrel Nash of Bowie, spoke in favor of an assault weapons ban.
“I see no place for them in a civil society,” he said.
Valentino-Smith said she still remained supportive of an assault weapons ban as area residents said they wanted some action on gun control following prominent shootings.
“Overwhelmingly, the public has a heightened sense of concern regarding guns and gun safety,” she said.
The debate about gun control most likely would continue to be one of the dominate issues in Annapolis in the 2013 session of the General Assembly, Valentino-Smith said.
“This is an issue that’s going to be before us all session,” she said.