ANNAPOLIS – Assault gun ban advocates got their say at a House hearing Tuesday, but they were clearly outnumbered during an often-heated debate.
When House Judiciary Joseph F. Vallario ordered Leah Barrett, executive director of CeaseFire Maryland, to stop reading from her testimony and condense her remarks, she was visibly disturbed.
“I urge you to consider the merits of this legislation, and vote with common sense. The House should do the right thing,” Barrett said as Vallario barked at her.
Barrett quoted a Gonzalez-Arscott poll showing 77 percent of Marylanders support an assault weapons ban, with 68 of the state’s Republican voters also in favor.
Barrett was backed by Sarah Brady, whose husband was severely injured during the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan on March 30, 1981. Brady has worked for 10 years to maintain the federal ban, which expires Sept. 13.
“Night after night, drugs are used and kids in schoolyards are mowed down (because of these weapons,)” said Brady. “We are now facing terrorists, it makes it that much more easy for terrorists (to acquire weapons).”
Hyattsville Police Chief Douglas Holland, representing the Maryland Chiefs of Police, equated a vote on the ban to a vote guaranteeing the safety of police officers.
“Our concern is the support of an officer’s safety. These weapons are superior to our officer’s weaponry. This bill is very necessary to preserve the safety of the officers,” said Holland.
The bill is similar to the federal law and would ban 45 types of assault weapons, including the Bushmaster rifle used by the snipers who terrorized the Washington region last year.
But even law enforcement is divided on such a bill.
Maryland State Police Lt. Col. Steven T. Moyer pointed out that 34 of 53 law enforcers killed in Maryland in 2003 were killed with handguns.
“The data does not support moving forward with (the assault weapons ban),” he said.
Phillip Lee, of Silver Spring, said there are statistical flaws cited by bill proponents.
“We have one of the most violent states in the union,” Lee said. “We’re No. 2 in the murder rate, with 220 times the number of assaults, yet there are no AK-47 deaths, no AR-15 deaths.”
The bill should be killed, Lee said.
Delegate Neil Quinter, D-Howard, defended his bill saying he supports the right to bear arms from the Second Amendment, but as a society, people should not have access to nuclear weapons or assault weapons because they are designed to kill large numbers of people.