Polls indicate that a majority of Americans favor a host of gun control restrictions, including safe storage laws, the right to sue negligent dealers and barring domestic abusers from having guns. The NRA has successfully blocked such measures — and in fact, pushed the nation in the opposite direction, loosening gun laws over the last decade. Why is this?
The answer, unfortunately, is that voters who support stronger gun control neglect to hold lawmakers accountable for kowtowing to the NRA. That may well change, with the youth leading the way after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting this year, laying bare the cowardice of lawmakers and pressing the need for basic gun control measures. In this year’s elections across the nation, voters have the opportunity to set things straight by electing lawmakers who will stand up to the NRA and enact sensible gun laws.
It turns out Baltimore County voters will have this choice. Democratic State Sen. Jim Brochin, who is running for Baltimore County Executive, has repeatedly stood up to the NRA and backed sensible gun laws. Meanwhile his opponent in the Democratic primary, Johnny Olszewski Jr. — who has earned the backing of the Baltimore County Progressive Democrats Club — has repeatedly done the NRA’s bidding.
Both legislators once drew praise from the NRA, but that changed with the Sandy Hook shooting in December 2012. Senator Brochin cut ties with the increasingly reckless gun lobby, and supported Maryland’s landmark Firearms Safety Act, which strengthened gun restrictions — banning the sale of assault weapons in the state, limiting the size of gun magazines and requiring handgun purchasers to undergo licensing and safety training.
In so doing, Senator Brochin appears to have followed his conscience and done what he felt was the right thing, enacting sensible and moderate gun safety rules. He surely knew this was a political risk, as he had just been redistricted into a more conservative district, including Northern Baltimore County all the way to the Pennsylvania state line — all of whose local and state representatives were already Republican, except for Senator Brochin. He displayed courage in standing up to the NRA in support of this landmark legislation.
Shockingly, Mr. Olszewski submitted to the NRA and as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates voted against the 2013 Firearms Safety Act. This while he served a district that was represented at the time entirely by a Democratic delegation. For his loyalty to the gun lobby, Mr. Olszewski received an A rating from the NRA and was a 2014 beneficiary of the NRA victory fund. If he hoped this might earn him support from conservative voters, he was wrong; Mr. Olszewski lost his bid for state senator in the 2014 elections.
These politicians have a history of casting dissimilar votes on common sense gun legislation. In 2009, Senator Brochin supported a measure to confiscate guns from domestic violence suspects who had received a temporary protective order against them. This is an effective policy for making domestic violence incidents less deadly. As Everytown for Gun Safety points out, “The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that a woman will be killed.” Mr. Olszewski voted against taking guns away from people with a temporary protective order against them.
Though Senator Brochin represents a markedly more conservative district, he has continued to be re-elected — and continues to vote his conscience on guns. Senator Brochin is a co-sponsor of the bill to ban bump stocks, which can transform semiautomatic rifles into fully automatic rifles. This mechanism was used by the Las Vegas shooter, who killed 56 people and injured 300 last October. This bill passed in the legislature Wednesday.
Senator Brochin has also endorsed legislation to dissolve the Maryland State Handgun Permit Review Board, where Gov. Larry Hogan has appointed NRA sympathizers who appear to green light applicants over the concerns of law enforcement. Siding with the gun safety group Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, Senator Brochin favors giving permit decisions to administrative law judges, who will do so objectively and independently, with public safety foremost in mind.
As the mass shootings mount — Orlando is followed by Las Vegas, followed by Sutherland Springs, Texas; followed by Parkland, Fla. — the American public is waking up to the gun laws in their midst. They realize that their lawmakers have been selling out to the NRA and enacting reckless gun laws. Senator Jim Brochin is a notable exception to this depressing trend; voters who care about reducing gun violence must support him in the upcoming election for Baltimore County Executive.
Firmin DeBrabander (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a professor of philosophy at the Maryland Institute College of Art, and author of “Do Guns Make Us Free? (Yale University Press, 2015).