- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
As stricter gun-control proposals wound through the legislative process this week in Annapolis — the Senate passed a bill on Thursday — a pair of St. Mary’s sportsmen argued that the restrictions are unneeded and miss their mark.
John Mountjoy, president of the Sanner’s Lake Sportsmen Club off Great Mills Road, and Mark Byers, a club member serving as its legislative affairs specialist, tried to keep pace with the filing of 79 legislative bills spread among five different General Assembly Senate and House subcommittees holding hearings scheduled through this month, with new bills still being introduced.
Byers said there could be “a deliberate tactic to divide and conquer” the opponents to the legislation by making it harder for them to appear at each of the upcoming hearings.
“It’s definitely making it tough for us,” Mountjoy concurred, “but we’re doing what we can.”
“Just to keep up with the reading associated with these things is a test,” Byers said.
The club, with a history dating back to 1951, has about 600 regular members, about 200 associate members who primarily are the regulars’ spouses and about 300 dependent members who are under the age of 21. They have a clubhouse and shooting range on the idyllic acreage that feels far removed from the highway’s busy commercial corridor.
The proposals by federal and state lawmakers after the shooting deaths last December of 26 people, including 20 children, at an elementary school in Connecticut has amounted to “an emotional response to a terrible tragedy,” Byers said, one that is mired in a “hurried nature and technical inaccuracies,” and that he ascribes to an approach long pursued by liberal elected officials in states like New York and California. The two club members said they feel that the embrace by Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) of that approach ties into his potential bid for the presidency in 2016.
Byers said the proposed changes in gun laws would have “unintended consequences” for law-abiding citizens ranging from aspiring Olympic athletes to people simply trying to protect their homes and loved ones.
Specifically, Byers said a proposal to outlaw the AR-15 rifle, used in less than 2 percent of all crimes, would extend into full prohibition the existing regulations that he said needlessly differentiate between the basic model of the weapon and a far more heavily regulated version that has a collapsible stock.
“They’re legislating primarily on cosmetics and not on function,” he said, adding that most rifle users can switch out cartridge magazines so quickly that there’s no purpose in regulating their capacity.
Pump-action shotguns are just as lethal, Mountjoy said, but public officials are not going after them “because they don’t want to offend a greater demographic.”
Byers said the discussion of mental health during the gun-control debate is “the single most concerning issue,” because lawmakers again are rushing toward a decision on an issue that needs more thought than has gone into the current proposals.
“There was very little substance to it,” Byers said, noting a doctor’s opinion that veterans needing counseling services might forego that, if it costs them their right to enjoy sport shooting or even own a firearm.
The two club members indicated that the mental health approach to the issue is more plausible than other gun-control initiatives, but that an individual police officer responding to a residence should not be able to unilaterally assess the occupant’s mental condition and seize their firearms.