A town hall meeting put together by two gun violence prevention groups quickly turned heated Saturday morning at the Urbana Regional Library after pro-gun supporters jeered state senators as they discussed Maryland’s tough new gun rules.
A majority of people in the standing-room-only audience of more than 100 were pro-gun and against the viewpoints of attending state Sens. Ronald N. Young (D-Dist. 3) of Frederick and Brian E. Frosh (D-Dist. 16) of Chevy Chase.
Introducing the meeting as an opportunity to educate residents about a new state gun law and national gun issues, Dr. Lisa Whitehead, an area pediatrician, asked the audience to refrain from heckling.
“Each of your viewpoints are valuable,” she said.
Carlotta Joyner, chapter director for the Western Maryland branch of the group, Organizing for Action, had to admonish several audience members who repeatedly made loud comments while others were speaking.
Both senators voted in favor of a bill that will take effect in the state beginning Oct. 1, once Gov. Martin O’Malley signs it. No date has been set on when O’Malley will sign the bill he had introduced, his Press Secretary Takirra Winfield said Monday.
The new law includes banning the sale of 45 guns classified as “assault long guns,” the reduction of magazine sizes to 10 rounds and requiring a person or dealer that owns or sells firearms to alert authorities if a gun is lost or stolen within 72 hours.
The law also requires those purchasing a handgun to get a qualification license, take a one-time course, get fingerprinted and submit to a background check.
When Frosh delivered his opening remarks, he told the crowd a few of the reasons why he voted for the new law, including reporting stolen guns and lowering the capacities of gun magazines.
Valley Gun, a now closed dealership in Baltimore County, accumulated thousands of federal gun violations over the years. The store could not account for 25 percent of its inventory which was more than 400 guns, Frosh said.
Many of those guns were used to commit crimes, he said.
“It took the [U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms] 10 years to put them out of business,” he said.
Referring to the attempted assassination of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) in Tucson, Ariz., Frosh said the 13th bullet fired by that perpetrator killed Christina Green. When the gunman stopped to reload his 33-round magazine, he was tackled to the ground.
“If he had a 10-round magazine instead of 33, Christina would be alive today,” he said. “I think it’s just common sense. You don’t need 33 rounds in your weapon.”
During his introduction, Young told the crowd he had heard from hunters who said if they could not bring down an animal with one or two bullets, they had no business hunting.
As someone who has read the U. S. Constitution many times, he said: “We have come a long way since the Second Amendment was written.”
The amendment was written because the nation at the time could not afford to buy guns for soldiers, and if a militia needed to be formed, the men answering the call would already have a weapon, he said.
Later in the meeting, a man lightly tossed a copy of the Constitution on the table where both senators sat. The man said he didn’t believe Young had actually read it, so he was giving him a copy.
Young’s remarks were met with some laughter, jeers and impassioned response, especially when he said: “We did nothing in [these bills] to take guns away.”
A loud uproar of groans, gasps, and jeers filled the room.
One man shouted, “You took away my AR-15!”
While a woman in the front of the room shouted back, “Have respect!”
After several minutes, Young stopped his prepared remarks.
“It sounds like people are going to comment any way so let’s take comments,” he said.
Only about five to six questions and comments were fielded by the senators with all but one heated outcries from gun owners to not take away their Second Amendment right.
Young said he listened to his constituents before he voted.
“I did what I thought was right,” he said. “... In no way does [the new law] violate the Second Amendment.”
The senators were available for an hour before having to leave for another meeting.
“It was a little raucous, but nothing we couldn’t handle,” Frosh said later.
Those not in favor of the new law made their presence known early.
One car near the entrance to the lower level of the library had a sheet thrown over the windshield reading, “Register to vote today or lose your gun tomorrow.”
A member of the Frederick Campaign for Liberty was also outside the front door passing out suggested questions to the senators such as:
• How does preventing law-abiding citizens from owning weapons keep them out of the hands of criminals?
• Does [the new law] prevent a determined individual from obtaining a gun?
Both senators left separately within minutes of each other. About two-thirds of the audience left after the senators departed.
Staff Writer Ryan Marshall contributed to this story.