On February 21, 2012, the Maryland House of Delegates Judiciary Committee held a Gun Day. They hold one every year. It's an opportunity for gun advocates to testify before the Committee about proposed legislation. All that is ok. We live in a free country and we have First Amendment rights. I have no problem with such a day.
However, Gun Day, 2013 is going to be very different.
I'm going to be there. I'm telling as many of my friends as I can to be there, too.
The House of Delegates has not scheduled Gun Day for 2013, however, when they do, we'll be ready. And we'll be there.
We don't necessarily have to testify. We certainly shouldn't confront anyone. We just need to be seen. The gun supporters think they can push our representatives around...even though they are in the minority and may likely not have even voted for most of the representatives in the Committee. They show up in force for events like these. Gun manufacturers and the NRA ship folks into Annapolis from other states to boost the size of the crowd.
I attended a community meeting Tuesday where our state senators and representatives explained what was in Governor O'Malley's comprehensive plan. Each of them had introduced individual bills that comprise O'Malley's plan. One of the senators told us that the day she released her legislation, her in-box was pinged with a pro-gun e-mail every fifteen minutes.
Maryland has fairly strong gun laws, but none of them would have stopped a massacre like the one that happened at Sandy Hook. None of them would have stopped the shooting in Aurora. We can do even better.
Maryland currently limits the size of magazines to 20 rounds, yet that's one of the highest of any of the states that limit magazine size. While there is a requirement to apply for a permit to carry a handgun, the criteria for permission is a very vague "good and substantial reason." We do not inspect gun stores for compliance with Federal law. We don't license individual guns. There is no requirement to report a stolen gun to law enforcement. There are no restrictions on how many guns you can own, although there is a waiting period and a background check. The Governor's legislative package intends to close some of those loopholes and make gun ownership even safer in Maryland.
Over the past 20 years, violent crime has dropped dramatically across the state. I believe it is no coincidence that crime dropped as stronger gun laws were passed. Still, gun deaths happen with too great a frequency. And last week, this hit home with me personally as a friend of mine ended his life with a gunshot. In this nation, the most frequent type of gun death is suicide.
Back to my original point. In blue Maryland, I will probably be able to attend Gun Day with a minimum of fuss. I know adamant gun owners (my friend who committed suicide was one of them) and I know how confrontational they can be, but it's Maryland, so things won't get too out of hand. Still, I need to be there. I recommend you consider doing the same.
Do you know what your State House of Representatives is up to? Why not look up the legislative agenda of the majority party? Find out which subcommittees have jurisdiction over gun legislation. If you don't know, call your representative's office (once you find out who he or she is...) and their staff can tell you. Ask if they're having a Gun Day.
Then, go. Tell your friends to join you. Wear green ribbons in honor of Sandy Hook, if you wish to take a stand. Or just take it all in. Observe how the laws are made. Know that after these meetings, lobbyists from the gun manufacturers take their legislator supporters out to lunch. A few days or weeks later, they will meet to discuss legislative drafts, often written by lawyers for the gun lobby or the NRA.
But none of this will happen in a vacuum if citizens begin asking questions, attending hearings, getting to know the key players, talking to their representatives and if they get no satisfaction, WORKING ON THEIR OPPONENT'S CAMPAIGN.
Vice President Biden was right. Politics is NOT a spectator sport. We have a government of the people, by the people and for the people, so it requires the people to GET INVOLVED.
No, I'm not confusing Federal and state here. I'm purposely focussing on the state level. We are losing workers' rights at the state level. The assault on voters' rights is occurring at the state level. Even though President Obama passed his landmark health care legislation, the implementation of it will be at the state level. We are winning marriage equality across the nation at the state level. If the past four years haven't driven the point home that state politics matter, you simply haven't been paying attention.
The Second Amendment applies only to the Federal Government and the Supreme Court, in Heller vs. US, maintains the authority of states to control the types of weapons that can be owned and the conditions for that ownership. This fight needs to be reinforced at the state level.
If you're in a blue state, don't assume it will be easy. Don't assume you can simply sit this one out and let some gun victims advocacy group do the job. If you think gun victim groups that have no money have equal weight with the gun lobby that has deep pockets, you're very naive. But what does have weight is the ballot box. Politicians are under the general assumption that the electorate doesn't care about this issue. Prove them wrong. Surprise them.
If you're in a red state, talk to people. Chances are, you know gun owners who are sick of non-enforced gun laws, too. They are sick of strawman purchasers who can easily sell weapons to criminals. See if they can join you in an effort to make some small changes. Small changes make a big difference. But moreover, you need to be that difference. We take a visible stand, not because we think it will change people's minds, but because we want others who feel the same way to know they are not alone. Together there is power. Build your coalition. And let us know how we at DK can help.
Find out when your state's gun day is....and represent.