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Seated in the front row on Feb. 6, when Gov. Martin O’Malley presented Senate Bill 281 to the Senate Judiciary Committee, I was struck by the question being asked by the governor and his supporters: What possible use does a law-abiding citizen have for an “assault weapon” or a magazine with more than 10 rounds?

I was among the more than 1,500 people who signed up to testify at the hearing but were denied this privilege. I would have asked him to consider what use a law enforcement officer has for these. There are plenty of good reasons for the law enforcement officer, as they don’t want to be outgunned. But neither does the citizen protecting hearth and home during the 15 to 20 minutes it takes the police to come in response to a 911 call.

Ricardo Royal testified as a black citizen and gun safety instructor that he is concerned about his community and the poor being denied access to firearms by SB 281. He pointed out that the onerous cost of licensing and training introduced by this bill will prevent lower-income citizens from buying guns for self-defense. The governor and his counsel answered that anyone who can afford a $600 gun can afford the $400 required to obtain a license; a shockingly frank elitist’s response.

This bill will create two new things. A new set of haves and have-nots. Also, a new class of firearms, named to stigmatize them as having a purpose to commit an assault and to function as weapons, instead of recognizing them as they are now, simply firearms.

When questioned about the necessity for a compelling state interest to withstand the constitutional test, the governor and his counsel could only point to their hope that licensing would discourage, but not prevent, straw purchases which are already illegal in Maryland.

An Asian-American woman testified that she had been assaulted in Maryland on two occasions and needed a firearm to protect herself and her children. Asked if she could use a shotgun, she stated they were physically too big for her to shoulder. It was pointed out that an adjustable stock is an inexpensive solution to this problem but would reclassify the shotgun as an “assault weapon” under SB 281. This silly but certain outcome is true for nearly all of the cosmetic factors used to add the “assault weapons” class to our lexicon. We will suffer a new discriminated group, petite women and small stature persons of all kinds.

Former law enforcement officers, special operations military and intelligence officers who have made mortal enemies of bad guys defending our lives during their careers are also put in jeopardy by this bill. They will suffer the same restriction as you and I, yet they have a clear and present danger to themselves and their families presented by these enemies foreign and domestic during their retirement years. Do not think for a second that a home invader will limit themselves to 10-round magazines or will not use a semiautomatic rifle with listed cosmetic attributes. There are many other good reasons to not pass SB 281. Oppose it as if your life depends on it, as it well may.

Ken Harmon, Valley Lee