Hundreds of gun-control advocates converged on Annapolis on Thursday to urge passage of legislation that would require background checks for secondary transfers of rifles and shotguns.
The legislation is on its second reading in the House of Delegates. Further debate is expected on Friday. Most bills pass on the third reading. The legislation was the subject of intense floor debate on Wednesday.
“Unchecked sales of rifles and shotguns pose a serious threat to public safety in Maryland,” Danielle Veith, a volunteer with the Maryland chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said at a news conference at the Lowe House Office Building. “The 2018 mass shooting at the Capital Gazette was a tragic reminder that a shotgun is every bit as deadly as a handgun and should be kept out the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. It’s past time for lawmakers to close this loophole and pass legislation that requires a background check on every single gun sale and transfer.”
Veith pushed back against opponents’ claims that the legislation would restrict the activities of responsible gun owners.
“Extremists arguing against this common-sense legislation would like us to believe that private gun sales are always between responsible gun owners and a neighbor or a friend they know well. If that were true, we wouldn’t be here asking legislators to close this dangerous loophole.”
Andrea Chamblee, the widow of slain Gazette editor John McNamara and a volunteer with Moms Demand Action, fought back tears as she voiced her support for the legislation. McNamara and four other Gazette employees were killed in the June 28, 2018 shooting. Chamblee testified in support of the legislation at a hearing earlier this month.
“There’s nothing I can do for John now. But there’s so many more people who need us and we can’t let them down…As long as people can easily buy that rifle or shotgun without a background check, there’s a serious threat to public safety in our state.”
Cindy Camp, the Baltimore c0-lead for Moms Demand Action, said the law should treat rifle and shotgun transfers the same as it treats handgun transfers.
“For more than 20 years Maryland law has required background checks for all handgun sales and transfers. The same should be true for rifles and shotguns.”
Camp hammered the point home.
“This bill will make a difference. It will save lives…It’s simply wrong that in a state like Maryland some guns aren’t subject to criminal background checks. To exclude certain types of guns from that simple requirement endangers public safety and defies common sense.”
But Del. Haven Shoemaker, R-Carroll, told MarylandReporter.com that the legislation would do little to address gun violence.
“It’s a feel-good, virtue-signaling bill for the majority party and that’s all it is. It’s gonna do absolutely nothing to combat crime.”
Shoemaker said that since the General Assembly passed the last “gun-grabbing bill” in 2013 only “2.5 percent of all homicides in the state of Maryland have been committed using a ‘long gun,’ ” referring to rifles and shotguns.
David Weber, who is the NRA state director for Maryland, also said the bill would do little to address gun violence.
“In a misguided attempt to address violent crime, Maryland lawmakers chose to impose a slew of draconian restrictions upon the ownership and sale of so-called ‘assault weapons’ and handguns. Since this didn’t actually benefit public safety, anti-gun legislators are now attempting to apply new restrictions on firearms that are rarely, if ever, used in crime. It’s just another example of grandstanding politicians attacking law-abiding gun owners for the acts of criminals.”
The legislation passed the House during last year’s legislative session but did not make it through the Senate. It is sponsored by Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, D-Howard.
A spokesperson for Gov. Larry Hogan told MarylandReporter.com that the administration has not yet taken a position on the legislation.