The one thing that everyone could agree on at the Sandy Spring Museum’s discussion on gun control Wednesday is that there is no simple solution.
More than 50 people packed into the museum’s Dr. Bird Room for Wednesday’s Salon Lunch, an informal weekly gathering featuring different topics of discussion.
While other topics have drawn similar-sized crowds, this one brought in more men than usual, said Allison Weiss, the museum’s executive director.
“It’s an emotional issue, but we need to get past our own feelings and listen to what others have to say,” she said.
Suzy Floyd of Brookeville had not attended a Salon Lunch before, but said she was drawn by the subject matter.
“I came just to get a feel for the local community’s thinking, and I encourage people to oppose gun control,” she said. “It’s about liberty and self-defense. There’s a lot of crime in the county that people don’t hear about, and I want to make sure I am able to protect my family.”
Gun control issues have surged to the national stage after recent mass shootings like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. in December. Both sides of the gun control issue are debating the merits of gun ownership, background checks and other limitation as politicians latch on to the emotional issues with their own legislative initiatives.
Weiss opened the discussion to those wishing to speak. Three panelists — Paul Keats, a member of and instructor at the Rockville chapter of the Isaac Walton League, and also a member of the NRA; Joseph Atkins with the Maryland office of the Public Defender; and Assistant State’s Attorney, Curtis Zeager — led the discussion.
The Newtown incident was brought up frequently, with several people stating that no law or regulations would have stopped the young man from his shooting spree at the school.
About five people who attended said they do own guns and believe they use and store them responsibly.
Museum board member and volunteer Marty Hale said that she approached Weiss with the topic suggestion for the meeting following the Newtown shooting.
“We as a community need to discuss all the important issues, not just the ones that make us feel comfortable,” she said. “We’re all looking for a single solution to this and that does not exist, there aren’t even just two sides.”
Atkins said he thought the discussion offered excellent dialogue, with a lot of interesting points made and differing points of view.
“It only proved that there are no easy answers,” he said.
Zeager said that his office believes that stiffer penalties for crimes committed with firearms could be a deterrent, and that mandatory mental health reporting could help catch “in a net” a person who planned to use an assault rifle in a movie theater or a school.
“This discussion was very representative of what is being said across the United States and here in Maryland,” he said.