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On Feb. 6, I was one of about 60 shooters from Lexington Park’s Sanner’s Lake Sportsman’s Club who went to Annapolis to testify against bills introduced in the Maryland legislature that will adversely affect the civil rights of law-abiding gun owners.

The crowd, reported by The Washington Post at 4,000 people, was spread between Lawyer’s Square and the Senate building. The building was ultimately closed because our overwhelmingly pro-gun crowd filled it to capacity.

Staffers were stunned, telling me that it was the first time in 11 years the building had been closed. Capitol and state police officers told me they found the crowd polite and cooperative. There were no counter-protests, disturbances or arrests. The majority of people waited in line more than four hours to sign up to testify.

One testimonial was from Beretta, whose Accokeek plant makes M9 pistols for the military. Its representative noted that if these bills pass, Beretta will likely move out of the state (it is already being courted by other locales).

Mental health professionals both for and against the bills agreed the bills lack medical specifics. Those opposed noted that mental health problems like depression and anxiety are common and the vast majority of people with those conditions pose no threat. One doctor testified he was afraid that patients, particularly veterans, wouldn’t seek treatment for fear the state would confiscate their firearms.

There are clearly many serious technical flaws with these bills. Mike McDaniel, a Sanner’s member and silver medalist at the 2012 World Muzzle-Loading Championships, noted, “These bills are so poorly written that they would outlaw about three-quarters of the pistols used in Olympic and international marksmanship competitions. Every medal won in the rapid-fire pistol and women’s sport pistol events at the 2012 London Olympics was won with a pistol that would be banned by these bills. The technical inaccuracy of these bills would be laughable if the issue was not so serious.”

Overall, the bills represent a shopping list of controversial anti-gun measures similar to those recently passed in New York and proposed nationally by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.). Several women joined the Sanner’s group in protest and one, a sexual assault victim who asked not to be identified, noted, “I find the complexity of the licensing requirements intimidating, and I’m sure other women will, too. I just want to protect myself.”

Despite being present for more than 12 hours, none of the Sanner’s members got to testify, as committee Chairman Brian Frosh (D-Montgomery), took the unusual step of cutting off all testimony at 9 p.m., even though nearly 200 firearms advocates remained. His only concession was the opportunity to state our names, place of residence and that we opposed the bills. Every person who filed through was in opposition.

By sheer numbers, we sent a strong message that all law-abiding firearms owners are going to be badly hurt by these flawed bills.

As marksmen, we are appalled by what happened in Connecticut, but we’re tired of being scapegoats when someone with a mental health problem commits a crime. Professionals agreed that the mental health provisions in these bills are superficial and poorly thought out. The only thing these bills are specific about is to infringe upon the legal ownership of firearms by law-abiding citizens, which is why our opposition will continue.



Mark Byers, Leonardtown

The writer is a competitive marksman and member of the Sanner’s Lake Sportsman’s Club.