Last week was a big week for Congressman Andy Harris (R-MD). On Thursday he was appointed to the House Appropriations Committee, being the only person from Maryland and the only physician on the committee.
(Baltimore Sun)“His commitment to responsible federal spending will serve the committee well as we navigate the uncharted waters of this precarious fiscal situation,” House Appropriations Committee Hal Rogers, a Kentucky Republican, said in a statement.
Then on Saturday, Cong. Harris hosted a townhall in Ocean City, MD. I was very pleased to see a standing room only crowd.
The hotel had to take down a partition wall to allow more people to filter in and several seats were added. It was a cold day with snow pending in the afternoon, but that didn’t stop folks from turning out to see what the Congressman had to say regarding the 2nd Amendment and the current gun control debate.
Harris begun the discussion by emphasizing that we should not politicize the issue. He reminded us that we already have background checks in Maryland and we have to fix the background check process and follow up before we can go any further. I for one, was surprised and pretty alarmed at some of the statistics he mentioned. If you’d like to delve into the Department of Justice report he referenced further, you can do so here.
Here are a few statistics I wanted to share with you.
- In 2010, the FBI reported a little over 6 million background checks were applied for. Only 72,659 (1.2% were denied) In Maryland specifically.
- Of those 72, 659, 47.4% were denied due to a felony conviction. 19.1 % were denied because they were fugitives.
- Of those applicants that were denied due to felonies or being a fugitive, only 4,732 or 6.2% were referred to the FBI for investigation. That makes 89.6% NOT referred to the field.
- A statistic that Harris didn’t mention, but one that is particularly important to me is this one: of those referred to ATF field divisions, 1,395 or 29.5% were referred because of the applicants being subject to a protective order.
- Now we get the particularly discouraging aspect of these statistics. Of those referrals, only 62 prosecutions, 13 convictions.
- How many of those convictions were for falsifying information? 1.
- Of those 13 convictions, how many occurred crime rate cities? Zero. The Congressman emphasized that this is a primary area we need to fix.
Cong. Harris told the standing room only crowd that “until we use background checks as deterrents, what sounds good on paper isn’t going to accomplish much.”
Another important fact he mentioned was the overwhelming number, 2/3′s of the deaths that occur by guns, are suicides. If we want to stop violence by handguns, we must look at the mental health issue. While speaking about mental health treatment, Harris also brought up the excellent point that we need to find balance.
While Maryland needs to improve their rating regarding reporting mental health issues on gun checks, we have to make sure we’re not stigmatizing those that seek help. It has been clear to me since the beginning of this debacle, that mental health needs to be a key component in the gun control debate and I certainly hope our legislators don’t limit their focus.
Delegate Mike McDermott then spoke and gave us updates on our Maryland bill, SB 281 which is slated for a vote later this week. McDermott told the crowd that Maryland continues to be the “tip of the spear”, not only with property rights (ie: SB 286) but now the 2nd Amendment. McDermott serves on the judiciary committee and on the Speaker’s special work group, which is composed of 15 Democrats and 2 Republicans. McDermott expressed frustration at the fact that there are “folks that know nothing about firearms, that are crafting bills on firearms.”
McDermott also offers weekly legislative updates on his website and for the one dated last week, he pointed out that the Gun Bill Work Group met with State Superintendent of Schools, Lillian Lowery and some of her staff. While many on the left promote gun control as a means of increasing safety for our children in their schools, I find it particularly interesting that providing protection through trained personnel with firearms was rejected, as well as the use of electronic control devices. The SBOE also rejected the idea of allowing off duty law enforcement or retirees from having restrictions lifted so they could carry on campuses across the state.
On his most recent update, McDermott states,
“I am always fascinated by folks like this who reject proposals that would merely allow them some more options, simply because they do not agree with the premise. It disturbs me that those who are charged with providing a safe environment for our children, refuse to do the one thing that would provide some reasonable measure of protection beyond a locked door.”
While there was some diversity in the crowd, including one woman in an “Assault Weapons – Ban Them” t-shirt, the crowd was largely pro-2nd Amendment. Regarding the school safety issue, one young lady that raised her hand during the Q&A session was a 15 year old high school student. Cong. Harris walked over and asked her, “What would you feel safer?” Her answer? Having an armed presence in her school. I commend Del. McDermott for walking over to that young lady and personally handing her his card.
Overall, the townhall was a lively discussion, which went 30 minutes over the scheduled time. There is much passion surrounding this debate, and it is my hope that it fosters healthy and intelligent dialogue and not the furthering of an ideology based on fear tactics and lack of credible facts.
Cross posted on Watchdog Wire.