Frederick County to withhold regional council dues over gun policy -- Gazette.Net


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Frederick County will withhold its dues to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments unless the group reconsiders its stance on a resolution favoring stronger gun control.

The board released a letter Wednesday to Karen Young, chairwoman of the board of directors of the council commonly known as WashCOG, opposing the board’s adoption of a resolution from the International Association of Chiefs of Police endorsing a number of measures to help reduce gun violence.

The county’s letter, signed by commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young (R), said the decision to adopt the resolution was “both inappropriate and disrespectful of the individual positions of the member governments and our law enforcement entities.”

In addition to being the regional council’s chairwoman, Karen Young is a Frederick alderman and is married to Blaine Young’s father, state Sen. Ronald N. Young (D-Dist. 3) of Frederick.

She could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Blaine Young said Wednesday that taking stances on issues such as gun control is not the reason the county is a member of the regional council.

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments is an affiliation of county and municipal governments in the region, including Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and municipalities such as Bladensburg, Bowie, College Park, Frederick, Gaithersburg, Greenbelt, Rockville and Takoma Park, as well as towns and counties in Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia.

“[The] purpose of the Council of Governments is to collaborate on challenges faced by localities unique to the Metropolitan Washington area,” the county’s letter said. “Gun control is not such a subject. It is a national and statewide issue.”

Frederick County’s letter echoed a letter sent to the regional council on Monday by Scott York, chairman of the Loudoun County (Va.) Board of Supervisors.

Frederick and Loudoun counties have asked for the issue to be reconsidered, along with the city of Fairfax, Va., said Jeanne Saddler, spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

It’s not clear if the issue would be reconsidered, but the organization is working with its board members to consider all sides of the issue, she said.

The county belongs to the regional council mainly to help deal with air quality and transportation issues, although Young said he has always questioned the county’s membership.

“We’re not sure why they weighed in on the gun bill,” he said.

The county wouldn’t pay its dues unless the regional council reconsiders its position on the resolution, he said.

The county paid $112,795 in Metropolitan Washington Council of Government’s dues in fiscal 2013, and had budgeted $118,435 for fiscal 2014 dues, according to the county’s Finance Division.

Young sent an email to the other commissioners after seeing the Loudoun County letter, suggesting that Frederick County send a similar letter.

Commissioners Billy Shreve (R) and Kirby Delauter (R) replied that they agreed, providing a majority of the five-member board, according to emails received by The Gazette.

The regional council’s resolution endorsed a position paper by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, saying it believed the police organization “possesses the knowledge and experience necessary to recommend effective violence prevention policy.”

The chiefs of police’s document supports various methods to decrease gun violence, including:

• Prohibiting the sale of armor-piercing ammunition.

• Supporting a ban on assault weapons.

• Prohibiting the sale of body armor and bulletproof vests to anyone except sworn or certified law enforcement officers.

• Opposing the weakening of states’ laws regarding the carrying of concealed weapons.

• Strengthening states’ ability to punish gun violations.

• Creating a national registry for people who have been convicted of felony firearm violations or misdemeanors involving firearms.

• Endorsing a five-day waiting period for gun purchases.

• Closing the so-called “gun show loophole” for gun purchases.

• Opposing any weakening of police’s ability to trace illegal firearms.

• Supporting legislation that would prohibit gun ownership by anyone who commits a crime as a juvenile that would have kept them from owning a gun if they’d been an adult at the time of the crime.

“Ranging from random shootings and suicides to retaliatory assaults and targeted mass killings, violence committed with firearms universally challenges law enforcement and taxes resources,” the position paper said.

A letter from Fairfax Mayor R. Scott Silverthorne summed up the three jurisdictions’ opposition of the regional council getting involved in the gun issue.

“Each jurisdiction within MWCOG represents people who have varying viewpoints. However, where we can find common ground for the greater good, we should; but where there are will likely be division — particularly on an issue such as gun control — we should allow others to take the lead.”

rmarshall@gazette.net