As Gov. Martin O’Malley’s gun control proposal works its way through the Maryland General Assembly, gun rights activists are already preparing payback for those legislators who are allowing it through.
Patrick Shomo, president of Maryland Shall Issue, a gun rights group, said he’s seen a movement in the gun rights community to register new voters in anticipation of the 2014 statewide election, and in some cases to switch membership from Republican to Democrat.
At Friday’s hearing on the Democratic governor’s bill in Annapolis, Shomo said, his group and others registered participants to vote, and saw several change their party affiliation.
“What we’re seeing are a number of these groups spontaneously coming up in the last few months,” Shomo said.
A website for a group called “Free State DINOs” — which stands for “Democrat in name only” — cropped up on Feb. 22, focusing on close primary races in Montgomery, Prince George’s and Baltimore counties, as well as Baltimore city, and encouraging conservative-leaning voters to switch their registration to vote in the Democratic primary.
No contact information was available on the website. An individual claiming to be the originator of the site offered to be interviewed only if he was identified by only his first name. The Gazette declined to interview him.
The site advocates for voters in Montgomery and other Democratic-dominated counties with closed primaries to switch their party allegiance and vote against incumbents who supported O’Malley’s gun bill. Even if challengers lack pro-gun credentials, the site reasons, ousting incumbents will send a message to Annapolis.
Another website, Maryland Shooters, a forum for gun owners, asked members if they had switched affiliation.
“I will say as a community, a lot of people were very complacent over the last few years,” Shomo said of the gun-owner community. “Now we’re in lock step. It’s all one team, one mission right now.”
Since January, that mission has been to defeat O’Malley’s gun proposals, which include an assault weapons ban, limits on magazine capacity, universal background checks, registration of firearms and fingerprinting of gun owners. Thousands have come to testify in Annapolis during hearings last month before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, and Friday before the House Judiciary Commite. Friday’s hearings lasted from noon until almost 4 a.m.
But soon the emphasis will shift, Shomo said, to fielding pro-gun rights candidates who can oust incumbents who voted for the gun bill.
“We’re going to be in their districts, we’re going to be in their bagel shops and dry cleaners talking to people,” Shomo said.
“If you’re in a district in a place like Montgomery County, and you’re registered as a Republican, you’re probably going to have to find a Democrat that you can support on this issue.”