Editor’s note: This column first appeared in the county executive’s weekly email on June 22.
I went off script this week.
I was speaking at a press conference with Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley, Senator Sarah Elfreth, Delegate Shaneka Henson, Health Officer Tonii Gedin and others about what we are doing to prevent gun violence.
I started by recounting Sunday’s Father’s Day vigil with the Mireles and Segovia families. Then I shared my recollection of the Capital Gazette editorial board calling on all candidates in the election five years ago to explain what they’d do to prevent the next mass shooting. That was after the one that took place in their newsroom, killing five of their beloved staff.
I then dutifully described our work: our declaration of gun violence as a public health issue, our creation of the Gun Violence Intervention Team, the 1,468 gun locks we’ve distributed at libraries since April through our pilot program, the safety literature we require gun retailers to distribute, the promotion and successful use of extreme risk protective orders (red flag), and the violence interruption programs in our budget. The other speakers described the important work they are doing to save lives at the city and state levels and in our Department of Health.
Then Mayor Buckley called for questions from the half-dozen reporters in the room, and there was silence. That’s when I stepped back to the podium.
“I have something else to say,” I said. “I’m going off script here.”
I said we couldn’t succeed at just the local level. I said I was frustrated, that we’re all frustrated, and I called on Congress to do its job.
Maryland lost 72 children to gun violence in 2021, and we lost 45 to automobile accidents. Those were the top two causes of childhood death.
Cars are dangerous, but less than they used to be. They’re regulated. We have road safety standards, car safety standards, driver’s licenses, and traffic laws to prevent cars from killing us. Those regulations save thousands of lives, despite the fact that not everyone complies with them.
Guns are also dangerous, but state and federal law preempts counties from regulating them. Maryland’s standard for getting a permit to carry was ruled unconstitutional by an out-of-touch Supreme Court last year, and now more people are carrying their firearms in public places. Shootings are up in our county this year.
Our country had an assault weapons ban in place for a decade and it worked. When Congress repealed it, mass shootings increased.
We have more guns than people in this country, and you don’t need to read the studies to understand that suicide attempts and personal conflicts are far more likely to end in death when there is a gun around.
The Capital Gazette killer was known to be a threat and should not have been able to purchase a gun legally, but he did. The man who shot six neighbors at the Mireles birthday party [in June] and killed three had a history that should have disqualified him from firearm ownership, but he had both a semi-automatic handgun and a long gun.
We do our gun violence prevention work at the local level because our neighbors are dying, but we’re up against an industry that profits from convincing people that they need more guns, and deadlier guns. Their campaigns are working, and more people are dying.
Failure by lawmakers to regulate firearms - as they do cars, drugs, and just about everything else that has proven to be a threat to public health - is a failure of leadership and an act of cowardice, regardless of party affiliation. Public safety is the most sacred obligation of government, and they are failing us.
I say these things as a gun owner who knows the power of these weapons. I got a pellet gun for Christmas as a child and cherished it, I shot clay pigeons with my grandfather, and I inherited my father’s 22-caliber revolver, which I’ve used to euthanize injured deer, a goat, and horses whose suffering was terminal. I keep that gun in a safe and will never carry it in a public place because its very presence on my body puts me and the people around me at risk.
We need to get guns off our streets.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here