ANNAPOLIS – Hundreds of gun rights advocates rallied outside the State House Wednesday in opposition to new gun control measures proposed by Gov. Martin O’Malley.
As O’Malley testified in favor of new gun restrictions before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, protesters outside said his proposals to ban assault weapons, limit magazine sizes and strengthen licensing measures would erode their rights.
Jay Hanlon, a retiree from Silver Spring, held a sign arguing that the Second Amendment protected gun ownership, including assault weapons, as a check against “Domestic Enemies.”
“That’s the weapon we need to defend ourselves against a government gone bad — against our oppressors,” said Hanlon, 65.
Kerry Nelson, 49, a former Marine who works as a U.S. Navy contractor, said he was tired of politicians arguing that assault weapons and large capacity magazines should be banned because they were not used by hunters and sports shooters.
“I keep hearing the argument that I don’t need 30 rounds to kill a deer. They’re absolutely 100 percent correct. It has absolutely nothing to do with the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment is for protection, primarily against our government should our government turn into a tyrannical government,” said Nelson, who is from St. Mary’s County.
Efforts to impose new restrictions on guns intensified after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., in December. President Barack Obama and O’Malley both proposed new gun control regulations following the tragedy.
The protesters gathered on Lawyers Mall outside the State House said that any new restrictions must not infringe on their constitutional rights.
Harry H. Fahl, a photographer from Essex, warmed up the crowd in the morning by leading a group recitation of the Second Amendment, which quickly turned into a chant.
Fahl, 65, said he came to the rally because he feared that new gun control proposals by O’Malley and Obama showed that the nation was moving away from democracy towards communism.
He adopted his 16-year-old daughter from China 15 years ago, and he said he was worried that the United States was transforming into the repressive society she left behind.
“This bill doesn’t represent safety,” he said of O’Malley’s proposals. “It represents a destruction of our personal freedoms and a crumbling of our society.”
Fahl said he needed high-capacity ammunition magazines to protect his home and his daughter. A security alarm thwarted a recent break-in, he said.
“What if my 16-year-old daughter had been there? And what if the person would have gotten in?” he asked. “I’d much rather have that intruder lying in a pool of blood than my daughter. Period.”
Sarah Merkle, a 15-year-old student from Baltimore who has been shooting since she was 8, said she was worried that the ban on assault rifles would limit her educational opportunities.
Merkle, who attended the rally with her mother, Karen Merkle, said she shoots an AR-15 competitively and was hoping to secure a college scholarship.
She addressed the crowd at the rally with a message for the governor.
“Martin O’Malley, you can’t take my guns, you can’t take my rights,” she said.