The city of Frederick has joined the growing list of municipalities in Maryland being targeted by a national gun-rights group threatening to sue if they don’t change their gun laws.
The Second Amendment Foundation, a gun-rights advocacy group based in Bellevue, Wash., sent a letter to the city on April 2, asking officials to repeal its laws banning the carrying of firearms within 500 feet of a parade, walkathon or race.
The foundation claimed the ban violates Maryland gun laws.
Frederick Mayor Randy McClement (R) said he has forwarded the letter to the city attorney for review and to determine when the law was enacted.
“We created the ordinance for big events,” McClement said. “I want to make sure we are in compliance with the state legislature, or if there is something we have missed. If we are outside state law, we need to change that.”
Aldermen Carol Krimm (D) and Karen Young (D) said Tuesday that they want the Maryland Attorney General’s Office to review the letter to determine if Frederick’s law is in violation of Maryland gun laws. Krimm said she also wants a review by the city attorney.
Alderman Michael O’Connor (D) is looking to legal staff to determine if the city is in violation of Maryland gun laws.
“I would want to do a little research to know how long this code has been on our books, and if our legal staff has any concerns regarding its enforceability, relative to state law,” O’Connor said in an email.
Alderman Shelley Aloi (R) and Kelly Russell (D) did not return emails or phone calls.
Officials in Walkersville, who also received a letter on March 26, were not as receptive to the foundation’s request that they repeal their ban on carrying a loaded firearm within town limits or risk a lawsuit.
“I have no problem with gun rights, but for somebody to come here and say we need to make a change, I don’t know what dark basement they are living in,” Commissioner Russell Winch said at an April 10 town meeting.
Burgess Ralph Whitmore agreed.
“I’m with Russell, let them sue us,” he said.
The burgess and five commissioners voted unanimously to take no action on the threat.
But David Severn, the town’s attorney, told The Gazette that he is reviewing the letter at the town’s request to decide how to proceed.
McClement said that unlike officials in Walkersville, he did not view the letter as a threat.
“I read it differently,” he said. “I think they were trying to be nice, and not demanding.”
Dave Workman, communications director with The Second Amendment Foundation, told The Gazette last week that the letters are going to each municipality as part of a national campaign launched about a year ago in Virginia and Washington state.
The 39-year-old foundation, which is not affiliated with the more powerful National Rifle Association, is looking at the various codes to make sure they are in compliance with state laws.
The foundation was founded in 1974 by Alan Gottlieb. It has a seven-member board of trustees and publishes “The New Gun Week” magazine three times a month. They also publish a women’s firearms magazine, “Women & Guns.”
The foundation operates a website for firearms activists, attorneys and gun owners. It hosts several seminars, meetings and conferences where guns laws are reviewed and discussed. The group also maintains an attorney-referral service with a network of lawyers specializing in gun cases.
Although the organization has filed numerous lawsuits, some jointly with the National Rifle Association, challenging the constitutionally of gun restrictions across the nation, no lawsuits have been filed yet under its new pilot program targeting municipal laws, Workman said.
In every case, municipalities receiving the letters have agreed to comply, he said.
In the letters to Frederick and Walkersville, the foundation claimed the two towns are in violation of Maryland Criminal Law Code 4-209 (a), which stipulates, in part, that the state pre-empts the rights of a county and municipality to regulate the purchase, sale, transfer, manufacture, ownership and possession of a handgun, rifle or shotgun, including ammunition.
The foundation also said both municipalities are in violation of Maryland Public Safety Code Ann. 5-133 (a), which stipulates, in part, that state gun laws supersede any restrictions that a local jurisdiction puts in place.
“The City of Frederick has no legal authority to adopt or enforce this section of the Frederick City Code and should, out of respect for the supremacy of the Maryland legislature, and out of respect for the rule of law, repeal it,” the letter said.
“The Second Amendment Foundation respectively requests and formally demands that the City of Frederick repeal Sec. 18-10 (e) of the Frederick city code. Failure to bring the municipal code into compliance with state law puts the city at risk for a lawsuit.”
McClement said he was not worried about a lawsuit, saying officials will make changes to the city code if necessary.
Meanwhile, officials with the county and Middletown said they have yet to receive a letter.
But several municipalities in Montgomery County and Prince George’s County have received letters, including Gaithersburg, Poolesville, Garrett Park, Greenbelt and Cheverly.
Staff Writer Daniel Leaderman contributed to this story.