When Scott Hollenbeck, president of the South Carroll Republican Club, read the Anne Arundel County Democratic Central Committee’s Facebook post that blamed Republicans for mass shootings, he didn’t take it well.
“I believe that to be outrageous, toxic, and venomous,” Hollenbeck told the Times. “We have serious disagreements with the Anne Arundel Democrats.”
The Facebook post, which has since been taken down, was made after mass shootings on consecutive days in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
Patrick Armstrong, chairman of the Democratic committee, said he wrote the post, according to The Capital.
“It seems that people are getting more upset about a Facebook post than they are about the actual slaughter of Americans in every town and every city across the country," Armstrong told the Times on Wednesday after learning of the South Carroll Republican Club’s letter.
Although the post gained more attention than he expected, Armstrong said it was a “good thing” to have people talking about this issue.
Hollenbeck decided to write a letter to the Maryland Republican Party expressing the club’s discontent with the committee’s Facebook post. He brought the letter to the monthly South Carroll Republican Club meeting on Tuesday and asked its members to consider voting to send it to the state party.
The 16 people present at the meeting voted unanimously to mail the letter, and Hollenbeck did so Wednesday morning, he said. By the club’s standards, a vote is successful if the majority of people present vote in favor, according to Hollenbeck.
The self-organized club represents about 30-some like-minded people in South Carroll, Hollenbeck said.
Hollenbeck declined to release the letter before the state party receives it, but he provided a summary of it to the Times.
According to Hollenbeck, the letter expresses the club’s opinion of the Facebook post and requests the state party issue a formal response to the Anne Arundel Democratic Central Committee.
“It went beyond the reasonable political difference of opinion,” Hollenbeck said of the post.
In response, Armstrong said, “This issue shouldn’t be about a difference of opinion. People are being killed. This is not a small issue.”
Hollenbeck said he believes it is important for the state party to respond.
“If something is not responded to, that only encourages similar kinds of action,” Hollenbeck said.
The letter also encourages the state party to engage in party-building activities specifically in Anne Arundel County, Hollenbeck said, such as voter registration drives, fundraising and candidate training.
Even though the Facebook post was removed, the damage was done, in Hollenbeck’s eyes.
“It still reveals what’s in their heart,” Hollenbecksaid.
Armstrong said the Anne Arundel Democrats’ committee board chose to remove the post because some members “weren’t comfortable with it” and “comments were spiraling out of control."
Nonetheless, Armstrong said he does not regret publishing the post in the first place.
“I think it’s a good debate that we’ve sparked," he said.
On a personal note, Hollenbeck prayed after the shootings occurred, he said. He prayed for the souls of the dead and their families, he said, and prayed God would punish those who did them harm.
In terms of preventing another shooting, Hollenbeck said, there’s no single solution.
“There’s not one thing that can be done,” he said.
People should respect the law and not kill others, Hollenbeck said, and “adequate punishment” should be in place for those who break it. He suggested concealed carry permits for law-abiding citizens.
“We just need to respect our fellow man,” Hollenbeck said.
Armstrong said there are multiple ways to prevent mass shootings.
He suggested an assault weapons ban, universal background checks for gun owners and “red flag” laws that would allow law enforcement officers to take firearms from individuals.
“To do nothing, I think, is unacceptable," Armstrong said.
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The Capital’s Angela Roberts contributed to this report.