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It is a basic assumption that our elected state officials are there to represent their constituents’ wishes — or is it? With such a controversial issue as gun control in the legislative cross hairs, one has to wonder about this presumption. I have been active in writing not only to my own Maryland state senators and delegates, but to all members of both houses expressing my opinions and desires concerning the current list of gun control bills now being proposed. I usually receive a prewritten response thanking me for my submission. Some have urged me to attend hearings and voice my position in person. Some don’t reply at all. However, one response I received made me wonder about the assumption of what and whom our elected officials represent.
I received an “Open Letter to Constituents on Gun Control” from Del. Cheryl Glenn (D-Baltimore city). In this letter, the delegate states, “This letter is prepared for you so that you will know my position on gun control and any anticipated legislation.” It goes on to say that the delegate “supports the 2nd Amendment, but will strongly support any and all efforts to strengthen our gun laws so that instances of gun violence will no longer be a way of life for far too many people/victims/families.”
I applaud the delegate for so clearly stating her position. But it was the tone of the entire letter that started me thinking, is this the desire of her constituents or that of the Democratic party line? Our Democratic governor has made it clear where he stands and that is with the president, Mayor Bloomberg and the anti-gun organization he started, Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Rumors were rampant about Gov. O’Malley’s potential bid for the 2016 presidential election when he announced his “Assault Weapons Ban” legislation. He has said the majority of Marylanders support his “common sense” (the tagline that Bloomberg and the president have been using) legislation.
Recent events at the state Capitol saw the largest outpouring of public opposition against any legislative initiative in the history of Maryland. The Miller Senate Office Building had to be closed due to fire regulations with hundreds still lined up around the building waiting to sign up to testify or attend the committee hearing on Senate Bill 281. It would appear that the governor’s statement and the massive public display are at odds with one another.
So, the question of whether the positions that legislators express are those of their constituents or a political or personal philosophy begs to be answered. A prime example is Maryland Sen. Brian Frosh (D-Montgomery), chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, who is on the record stating his staunch anti-gun philosophy. He went so far as to say that anyone who wanted to own the type of semi-automatic rifle at the center of the current legislation is “nuts.”
I believe Abraham Lincoln once said that “this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Note the key repeated phrase, “the people.” The people should decide this critically important issue. The way to do that is through the referendum. The people of the state of Maryland should be given the opportunity to vote on this constitutionally related legislation. In this method, the true constituent’s voice will be heard.
Craig Lindquist, Lusby