Crowd

This is a view of part of the crowd at a rally outside the State House. Several hundred people gathered in support of gun ownership and against a package of gun control bills that are being heard in the Senate. (Barbara Haddock Taylor, Baltimore Sun / February 26, 2013)

ANNAPOLIS - Hundreds of gun rights advocates rallied outside the State House on Wednesday in opposition to new gun control measures proposed by Gov. Martin O’Malley.

As O’Malley testified in favor of new gun restrictions before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, protesters outside said his plan to ban assault weapons, limit magazine sizes and strengthen licensing measures would erode their rights.

Harry H. Fahl, a photographer from Essex, warmed up the crowd in the morning by leading a group recitation of the Second Amendment, which quickly turned into a chant.

Fahl, 65, said he came to the rally because he feared  new gun control proposals by O’Malley and President Barack Obama showed that the nation was moving away from democracy and toward communism.

He adopted his 16-year-old daughter from China 15 years ago, and he said he was worried that the United States was transforming into the repressive society she left behind.

“This bill doesn’t represent safety,” he said of O’Malley’s proposals. “It represents a destruction of our personal freedoms and a crumbling of our society.”

Fahl said he needed high-capacity ammunition magazines to protect his home and his daughter.  A security alarm thwarted a recent break-in, he said.

“What if my 16-year-old daughter had been there? And what if the person would have gotten in?” he asked.  “I’d much rather have that intruder lying in a pool of blood than my daughter. Period.”

Efforts to impose new restrictions on guns intensified after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., in December.  President Obama and O’Malley both proposed new gun control regulations following the tragedy.

The protesters gathered on Lawyers Mall outside the State House said that any new restrictions must not infringe on their constitutional rights.

Sarah Merkle, a 15-year-old student from Baltimore, said she has been shooting since she was 8. Merkle attended the rally with her mother, Karen Merkle, said she shoots an AR-15 competitively and was hoping to secure a college scholarship.

She addressed the crowd at the rally with a message for the governor.

“Martin O’Malley, you can’t take my guns, you can’t take my rights,” she said.