'This ain’t that’: Anne Arundel Police Chief Timothy Altomare responds to 2nd Amendment criticisms at final gun task force town hall

Anne Arundel County Police Chief Timothy Altomare gives remarks. Anne Arundel County Police Chief Timothy Altomare and County Executive Steuart Pittman held a press conference to provide an arrest update of suspect Joseph Robert Mitchell Willis who allegedly committed a homicide and shot two police detectives.

Second Amendment advocates dominated the mic at the final town hall for Anne Arundel County’s Gun Violence Prevention Task Force this week, prompting Anne Arundel Police Chief Timothy Altomare to defend the task force in an impassioned speech about law enforcement’s role and the need for thoughtful dialogue.

The town hall, hosted by County Executive Steuart Pittman on Wednesday, was the community’s last chance to comment publicly on a set of more than 30 recommendations that came out of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force’s preliminary report released in December. Members of the task force sat on a panel with Pittman and Altomare, including Health Officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman.


The panel — including Special Project Coordinator Derek Matthews who was moderating — was tight-lipped throughout the polarized testimony. But after several people testified in frustration about any effort — even proposed — to regulate gun ownership, and others suggested it was unnecessary, Altomare seemed like he had enough.

“Bad guys should not have guns,” Altomare said. “People who threaten their families should not have guns in that moment.”


Altomare is a career Anne Arundel County officer who was first sworn in as chief under former County Executive Steve Schuh. Pittman kept him on because community leaders said relationships with the police were strong.

“No right is 100% not removable — none. The right to life is not unremovable — the courts take it away in parts of the county, cops take it away. The right to liberty is not unremovable — the courts take it away, cops take it away,” Altomare said. “The right to carry a gun is not unremovable.”

As Altomare spoke, he reminded the audience several times — “You don’t know my politics.”

County resident Frank Mirenzi expressed concerns that Pittman and the task force were going to de-arm law-abiding citizens. He accused Pittman of being a Marxist and Communist.

Altomare was the only one who addressed repeated accusations.

“That man ain’t a Marxist — if he was Marxist I wouldn’t be his police chief,” Altomare said. “All the man is asking us to do is think and talk. I’ll talk to anybody, I’ll talk to a drug dealer. That doesn’t mean I’m not gonna try to put handcuffs on him at some point.”

He encouraged the healthy exchange of ideas but repeatedly asked the audience to refrain from making generalizations and having such visceral reactions.

“It’s my job to talk to people as the police chief, sir. Even Marxists, even Antifa, even drug dealers, even murderers. It’s my job to talk to people — that is my oath,” Altomare said. “To be fair, I will go after a bad guy in a heartbeat with everything I’ve got, and I will protect your rights come that day that you’re worried about. This ain’t that.”


Altomare and Pittman both referenced their recent participation in the Gun Safety Consortium — a conference of mayors from all across the country that Pittman said “use(s) the buying power of local governments to build a market for smart guns and smart gun locks.”

Altomare said he would avoid talking about politics, but rationalized his participation in the gun safety consortium by talking about officer safety.

“If the boss wants to look at a technology that makes my 800 cops safer, why on earth would I not have the discussion,” Altomare said. “We’re nowhere near smart guns being ready. But if there’s a lock I can put on a cop’s gun at home so it’s safe from their kids — and you’re looking at a police chief who has had one of his cop’s kids die — If I can do that, then I’m doing the right thing.”

The meeting came just one week after two Anne Arundel detectives were shot in the line of duty.

Pittman referenced the police shootings during his final remarks.

“I think everybody agrees that when our two cops got shot last week, that was gun violence,” Pittman said. “Nobody in this room thinks that should have happened. And everybody in this room is kind of pissed off about it.”


Pittman said he believes everyone agrees on 90% of the conversation around preventing gun violence, and assured the crowd that their Second Amendment rights would not be violated.

The county is in the process of assembling an interagency Gun Violence Intervention Team, which will mimic the county’s response to the opioid crisis in 2017.

“The purpose of this is to keep people safe and keep people alive and decrease gun violence,” Kalyanaraman said. “Guns are the mechanism, guns aren't the object of what we’re talking about. Life is the object of what we are talking about.”

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Glen Burnie resident Kara Chippi wore a red t-shirt emblazoned with the words “We will not comply” and urged the council not to move towards strengthening gun regulations.

“What does making additional regulations and making it more difficult for me to arm myself defensively, how does that help me," Chippi said.

Others spoke in support of the task force — which is expected to release its final report in May.


Carole Brown, a local attorney, argued that statistics provide a very particular view of an issue. She said universal background checks for any lethal weapon is not too much to ask.

“Statistics and data can only go so far. For the child that is shot by a person who, for whatever reason, shouldn’t have a gun, the statistical probability of that child being shot is 100%,” Brown said. “They’re shot and they’re dead.”