Wife of Capital Gazette shooting victim to speak at D.C. gun violence event

Phil Davis
Contact Reporterpdavis@capgaznews.com

Maria Hiaasen, whose husband Rob Hiaasen was killed in the June 28 shooting at Capital Gazette newsroom, will speak Wednesday night at an event in Washington, D.C., commemorating victims of gun violence.

Hiaasen said in an interview prior to the event that she’d be speaking at the National Vigil for All Victims of Gun Violence, scheduled for 7 p.m. at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church.

In its sixth year, the event started after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, when 20 students and six adult staff members were killed before the shooter committed suicide.

On its website, the Newtown Foundation describes the event as one that brings “together survivors of gun violence, victims’ family members, concerned citizens, faith leaders, lawmakers, leaders of gun violence prevention organizations and activists from across the nation.”

Hiaasen, a Baltimore County teacher, said she plans to speak about red flag laws, which allow people to seek a temporary order against an individual who has demonstrated a pattern of violence or mental health issues to have their firearms seized without having them charged with a crime.

Maryland has one of the toughest red flag laws in the nation but it did not go into effect until after her husband’s death. Hiaasen said she wants to make others aware of the law’s specifics.

“Obviously, this is my cause and, for me, the only path forward is to do something that has the potential to help,” she said.

“I can’t make the earth spin backwards and make June 28 not happen.”

Rob Hiaasen, an editor and columnist for The Capital, was one of five people killed on June 28 with a man police have said had a longstanding grudge against the news organization stormed the newsroom with a shotgun. John McNamara, Gerald Fischman, Wendi Winters and Rebecca Smith were also killed.

Maryland’s red flag law is broader than other states, in terms of who can petition for an order. In the first month after the law went into effect Oct. 1, 19 people sought the protective order in Anne Arundel County.

In November a Glen Burnie man was killed by two officers armed with a court order seeking his weapons was shot to death in a confrontation that remains under investigation.

Gary J. Willis, 61, died when Cpl. Jessica Hooper and Office Gary Zawodny came to his home.

Hiaasen’s appearance comes just days after Andrea Chamblee, wife of John McNamara, called on Gov. Larry Hogan to join the nation's first coalition of states to study gun violence.

New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Delaware, Connecticut and Puerto Rico are working to enhance cooperation in order to stem the flow of illegal guns used to commit violent crime. They have agreed to share criminal intelligence, databases and research.

Chamblee said Tuesday in an interview she plans to keep writing and hopes her work will help prevent those with a predilection for domestic violence from being able to own a gun.

But she added she doesn’t have a specific plan or path for her advocacy, saying she’s still dealing with the grief of losing her husband.

Organizers for the vigil in Washington did not immediately return calls for comment Wednesday.

Organized by the Newtown Action Alliance, the purpose of the event is to support the families and communities impacted by gun violence, educate, continue to raise awareness, and keep this critical issue front and center throughout our nation.

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