Capital Gazette victims posthumously awarded 'Speaker's Medallion' in Maryland House of Delegates

The five victims of the Capital Gazette shootingWendi Winters, Rebecca Smith, Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen and John McNamara — were honored Tuesday in Annapolis when Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch awarded them the Speaker’s Medallion, the chamber’s highest honor.

Busch said each of the victims “paid the ultimate sacrifice” when a gunman burst into their Annapolis newsroom June 28, killing them.

He individually honored each victim, several of whom the Anne Arundel County Democrat said he considered personal friends.

He called Winters “a close friend of just about everybody in the Annapolis area.” He recalled sharing with Hiaasen a love of the musician James Taylor: “Here’s someone that really loves not only his work but his passion for music.”

Busch remembered Smith as a Dundalk native, an avid bowler, and a field hockey and track athlete in high school.

“She was a great young lady,” he said. “Unfortunately she passed away much too early.”

Fischman, Busch said, “knew facts about everything around the world.”

And he called McNamara an open person who loved being around people.

“You could sit around and talk about sports with John all day long,” Busch said.

Relatives of Winters, Fischman and McNamara joined Capital editor Rick Hutzell to accept the awards, and to urge lawmakers to pass and strengthen laws to prevent gun violence.

Winters’ daughter Montana Geimer thanked Busch and the rest of the House for their kind wishes, while calling on them to take action.

“It means so much to us that you keep us in your thoughts,” Geimer said. “We desperately urge you to turn to the work of saving lives.”

Andrea Chamblee, McNamara’s wife, urged the lawmakers to push for an end to legal loopholes that allow people across the country to buy firearms at gun shows, and for a reinstated federal assault weapons ban.

“Gun violence is such a big problem in the United States,” Chamblee said. “We know what to do.”

Hutzell urged the lawmakers to protect and expand what is known as the state’s recently imposed “red flag” law, which allows authorities to seize firearms from people whom police, family members or health professionals consider to be an imminent danger to themselves or others.

Busch also lauded the survivors of the shooting for their commitment to journalism and their community in the midst of the tragedy.

“They continued to be true to their fellow reporters and true to the mission of those who work in the news,” he said.

The Speaker’s Medallion has been presented every year since 1995 to Maryland residents deemed to have made outstanding contributions to the state. Past recipients have included former state officials including Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Helen Delich Bentley and Parren Mitchell; academic leaders Brit Kirwan and Freeman Hrabowski; and business and civic figures such as Kevin Plank and Sister Helen Amos.

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