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With campaigns to institute stricter gun control measures underway in Congress and the Maryland legislature, Charles County Republicans rallied behind the unfettered right to bear arms Friday at their annual Lincoln Day Dinner.

Fittingly held in Waldorf at Middleton Hall, which is owned by the Saint Charles Sportsman’s Club and houses the club’s indoor firing range, the dinner featured a keynote address from former Virginia legislator and Gun Owners of America Executive Director Larry Pratt, who has recently gained notoriety following a pair of confrontational interviews concerning gun control with CNN host Piers Morgan.

A running theme throughout the dinner was the GOP’s need to rebound from a dispiriting 2012 election, which saw the re-election of President Barack Obama and Democratic Party gains in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

“I look at our party, and I know that we’ve been beat up, we’ve been bruised. It reminds me of history, Germany in 1933, I think, in the way that we’ve taken shots,” said Paul Goodwin, the club’s second vice president and senior pastor at Calvary Chapel of Waldorf, which holds its church services at Middleton Hall. In 1933, the German National Socialists under Adolf Hitler took power in an election.

To the roughly 100 in attendance, Pratt said lawmakers “have some of the blood on their hands” from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., last December, which spurred the current debate over gun control, for enacting laws that prohibit firearms in certain areas, including around schools.

Pratt said that the nation’s last 20 mass murders have been committed in gun-free zones, except for the January 2011 shooting in Tucson, Ariz., in which six people were fatally shot and 13 others wounded, including then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

“But of course, it was at a Democratic event,” Pratt said.

Pratt added that parents might want to reconsider sending their children to schools where teachers believe in gun-free zones and practice “zero tolerance” policies for rule-breaking, which he said discourage students from defending themselves against their peers.

He called U.S. House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio, 8th) a “new phylum in zoology.”

“He walked upright, but he has no backbone.”

Pratt said his organization is pushing Wyoming to enact laws that would strip federal agents of their gun rights if they try to enforce federal gun control measures in the state, and he criticized the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for cracking down on interstate sales of raw milk.

Pratt also endorsed the election of local sheriffs who can defy federal authorities and said juries serve an important role in societal change by presenting citizens an avenue to resist unjust laws.

The audience gave Newburg resident Charles Lollar, who is considering a gubernatorial run in 2014 and ran against U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md., 5th) in 2010, resounding of applause as he took the to introduce Pratt. He first offered his own take on the gun control debate.

“With all this rubbish about taking away Second Amendment rights, I’ve been training my children how to handle the Glock that I have at home and how to shoot it, and they’re getting excited about it,” Lollar said. “… We’re at the point in our house, we get excited about the opportunity of somebody breaking in.”

Jokes aside, Lollar said, “it’s time to stop playing politics” with the issue and protect gun rights. When he lived in Georgia, Lollar said, he learned about the city of Kennesaw, which in 1982 mandated that all homeowners own a gun.

“Can you imagine what happened to the crime rates within a year?” Lollar asked rhetorically. “The surrounding counties, their crimes rates remained the same or went up. In Kennesaw, it dropped by almost seven points. People [say], ‘I wonder why.’ Well, because criminals are smart, too.”

House Minority Leader Del. Anthony J. O’Donnell (R-Calvert, St. Mary’s) did not attend the dinner because he was in Annapolis while a joint House committee debated and eventually passed a bill proposed by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) that would mandate sweeping gun control regulations.

The full chamber began debating the legislation Monday. If it passes the House, the bill will have to go before a conference committee to settle its differences with the version passed by the Senate.

If the bill becomes law, “of course, criminals will be the first ones to turn their assault weapons in,” Lollar quipped.

Lollar said he was recently asked about his views on proposed assault-weapons bans given that you can hunt with other firearms.

“Maybe the Second Amendment wasn’t written for hunters,” Lollar said. “Could it be that the Second Amendment was actually written so it would protect its citizens from their enemies, adversaries or tyrannical governments that would try to supersede their will?” Lollar, a U.S. Marine Corps Reserve member encouraged Republicans to “join hands” in opposition against those “playing with your Second Amendment rights.”

“If you try to take this young Marine’s weapons from his home, I just ask you to be prepared,” he said. “I didn’t say for what. I just said be prepared.”

jnewman@somdnews.com