County residents say no to O'Malley's gun-control legislation

Howard County residents Thursday urged their state delegation to say no to Gov. Martin O'Malley's gun control legislation, arguing that it punishes lawful gun owners.

Of the more than 100 residents who filled the Banneker Room inside the George Howard Building, in Ellicott City, about 40 residents testified against O'Malley's gun proposal during the two-hour public hearing.

Only two residents testified in favor.

"This is a bill that is a knee jerk reaction to the Newtown tragedy and does nothing to prevent a tragedy from happening in Maryland," said Ellicott City resident David McAvoy.

In wake of the Newtown, Conn. tragedy, O'Malley has proposed a gun control package that includes a ban on the sale of "military-style" assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and requires licensing and training for handgun buyers.

Thousands of Marylanders rallied outside the State House in Annapolis Wednesday where O'Malley testified before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on his gun control legislation.

North Laurel resident Ron Smith, who attended the Senate hearing, said Thursday he is against any infringement of the Second Amendment.

"I'm tired of being made to feel like a pedophile," he said of owning guns.

Columbia resident Ken Stevens was one of the residents to testify in favor of O'Malley's gun-control package, saying he appreciates the Delegation doing anything it can to protect society from guns.

"The administration's firearms safety act should be considered the least you can do to provide a safer society for us all," he said.

Ellicott City resident Steven Gross compared the gun control bill to prohibition, saying the history of restriction in this country has been a failure.

"If we go the prohibition route again, it will be an abject failure," he said. "It just doesn't work. We have the history to prove it."

O'Malley also has proposed to repeal the state's death penalty, which in recent years has been stalled in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. He wants to replace the death penalty with life in prison without parole.

Five residents testified on the proposal, including Jessup correctional officer Douglas Tully, who said he was against repealing the death penalty.

"I believe that's something the state needs to maintain in our toolbox to deal with criminals," Tully said.

O'Malley has again introduced legislation to build an offshore wind farm 10 miles off the coast of Ocean City. Last year's proposal to build wind turbines in the Atlantic Ocean passed the House of Delegates before it died in the Senate finance committee.

North Laurel resident Liz Feighner was the only resident to testify on O'Malley's offshore wind proposal.

"Maryland should lead the way toward clean, renewable energy and move away from dirty, dangerous fossil fuels," Feighner said in approval of the bill.

According to O'Malley, an offshore wind farm could create almost 850 manufacturing and construction jobs over five years and an additional 160 jobs after the project is completed.

Three county residents testified in favor of a bill that would institute asset forfeiture for convicted human traffickers.

The bill calls for funds forfeited by convicted human traffickers to be used toward establishing an Anti-Human Trafficking Fund to provide aid to victims and funding for law enforcement agencies to investigate human trafficking cases.

Columbia resident Nicholas Weikel urged the delegation to support the measure, saying that human trafficking follows the “path of least resistance,” occurring in states and counties with the weakest laws.

“This is a terrible crime, which has gone on unnoticed, so to speak, for past years,” he said.

Three local bills that were recently submitted received no opposition. Those bills, if passed, would:

• Allow wineries in Howard County to sell wine at farmers' markets in the county.

• Allow the Comptroller to issue a farm brewery license to brew beer on local farms that will only be sold on site.

• Authorize a state debt of $75,000 to be used as a grant to the Board of Directors of Vantage House Retirement Community in Columbia for development and improvement purposes.

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