In Annapolis, those who testify are disrespected

I recently decided to join the other concerned residents of Maryland opposing Senate Bill 281 and its proposed ban on "assault weapons" ("Opinions differ on Md. gun controls," Feb. 7). The bill is a pandering attempt to quell fears of mass shootings by banning weapons which have not been used in these mass shootings or guns that have cosmetic features that make them "look mean," as well as a host of other meaningless restrictions.

We arrived shortly after 9 a.m. and signed up to give verbal testimony at the 1 p.m. hearing. There was testimony given by both proponents and opponents of the bill. Everyone who testified was respectful and reserved in their comments while they testified to their position.

About 7 p.m., after a very long day, the crowd had started to thin as mothers and fathers, men and women and activists of every nature started to leave to be with their families. As lawmakers called for witnesses, there were people who were unavailable due to other commitments.

This was the point at which the process turned. Ginny Meerman was called up with several other women. (Keep in mind that there were so many witnesses who wanted to testify that there were two or three overflow venues broadcasting the proceedings. Two of the overflow rooms were on the floor below the committee meeting). When Ginny did not show up immediately, Sen. Lisa A. Gladden of Baltimore City, the committee's vice chair, asked where she and the others called were. Had they "chickened out?"

We must travel to Annapolis every few months to protect the freedoms legislators attempt to whittle away. Residents of Maryland take the day off work, often without pay, to fight to keep our liberties. The level of disrespect to Ms. Meerman (and many of the other witnesses who were responsibly attending to family matters after a 10-hour day) was reprehensible. The people who take the time to involve themselves in the legislative process deserve respect and the process of citizen testimony should be respected.

We condemn the disrespect we see from our youth. Is it any wonder that they feel entitled to belittle and demean others when this is the same behavior we see from elected officials? Senator Gladden should be embarrassed and should publicly apologize to everyone who came to participate in this process. She and others in the General Assembly would be well off to remember they work for us.

Rani Merryman, Baltimore

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