Petition drives to overturn Md. death-penalty repeal and gun laws both fail -- Gazette.Net


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This story was corrected on June 5. An explanation follows the story.

Two separate petition drives — one to place Maryland’s newly adopted law repealing the state’s death penalty before voters in 2014, the other to send the state’s new gun laws to the ballot in 2014 — have failed, according to the sponsors of each effort.

“We collected over 15,000 total signatures,” Del. Neil C. Parrott (R-Dist. 2B) of Hagerstown, who led the death penalty petition, told reporters in Frederick on Friday. “This amount, however is not enough.”

A total of 18,579 valid signatures was due to state officials by the end of Friday for each petition drive to continue.

Parrott, chairman of the nonprofit group MDPetitions.com, began the petition effort after Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) signed the repeal into law May 2.

MDPetitions.com collected enough signatures to take three bills to referendum in the 2012 election. None, however, was supported by voters.

On Friday, Parrott said if Maryland’s death-penalty repeal had gone before voters, it would have been overturned, citing an unsuccessful attempt in 2012 to repeal California’s death penalty through a ballot initiative.

Parrott was joined by Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger, who said he wanted to keep the death penalty for the sake of crime victims and their families.

“This was a monumental task, and we fell short. We’re obviously disappointed in that,” Shellenberger said. “One day, we’re going to wake up and something really, really bad is going to happen, and we’re going to wonder why we don’t at least have [the death penalty] as an option.”

The repeal measure, sponsored by O’Malley, passed the state Senate 27-20 and the House 86-52 during this year’s General Assembly session.

Jane Henderson, executive director of the nonprofit Maryland Citizens Against State Executions, said repeal supporters are relieved and “very pleased” that the petition drive fizzled.

“Most Marylanders are comfortable with [the repeal],” Henderson said. “There just isn’t much fire around this issue on the other side. It’s time to move on.”

A spokeswoman for O’Malley declined to comment.

A separate petition drive, sponsored by the Damascus-based Free State Petitions, tried to place the governor’s sweeping new gun-control law before voters.

Also needing to hit 18,579 valid signatures by Friday, the group came within about 1,300 signatures of meeting its goal, Susan Payne, the group’s founder, told The Gazette on Monday. That assumes all of the collected signatures were declared valid.

Depsite coming up short, Payne said she was proud of how much support her effort received, particularly since it began in early May, just a few weeks before the deadline, but was disappointed that Free State Petitions didn’t receive more support from elected Republicans.

Parrott’s organization declined to support a petition drive against the gun law, opting instead to support a legal challenge expected from the National Rifle Association instead.

“I don’t believe we [should] take a constitutional right to the people to vote on it. I think that’s a dangerous, slippery slope,” Parrott said, adding that if the petition drive was successful, it would delay any legal action because the effective date of the law would be pushed back until after the election.

dleaderman@gazette.net

An earlier version of this story had an incorrect subdistrict for Parrott. Also, Parrott’s name was misspelled in a photo caption.