Calling passage of Maryland gun control bills earlier this month the first steps toward stripping Americans of their rights, Second Amendment advocates staged a rally Saturday outside the State House, urging Gov. Larry Hogan to veto the legislation.
About 200 to 300 protesters gathered at Lawyers Mall in an event timed to coincide with similar rallies in state capitals around the country.
Annapolis protesters, some of whom marched from the State House to City Dock and back, carried signs that read "Democrats Disarm the Innocent" and "Informed Moms know Guns Are Not the Problem," and wore T-shirts with messages such as "I'll Stick to My Guns."
One of the speakers, Anne Arundel County Sheriff Ronald S. Bateman, urged the protesters not to give up fighting for Second Amendment rights.
"Stand strong," Bateman told a cheering crowd. "Stand strong for the Second Amendment."
Speakers repeatedly motioned to the nearby Governor's Mansion in urging Hogan to pull support he has pledged for two gun control measures passed during the legislative session that ended last week. One bill bans bump stocks, the accessory used by the Las Vegas concert shooter last year, while the so-called "red flag" law would require gun owners to give up their weapons if a judge finds them to be an "extreme risk."
Protesters argued the "red flag" law goes too far and would deny citizens due process.
"It's not really about the guns. It's about disarming, and this is just one little raindrop in the storm," said Don Howell, from Princess Anne on the Eastern Shore, who retired from the real estate business and works as a painter. "What the whole agenda is is to disarm America, shred our Constitution and make the United States into a socialist nation.
"They want to take away the freedom that our founding fathers fought for," Howell said.
Kevin Hulbert, a member of Patriot Picket, said he also came from the Eastern Shore to demonstrate and try to convince the governor to withdraw support for the red flag bill.
"We believe that once he recognizes the constitutional problems in the bill, that he won't sign it," Hulbert said. "There are better ways to go about the issue of dealing with the severely mentally ill or the criminally insane.
"It also specifically names gun owners as the persons to be petitioned against," he said "It's the first time in American history that a group that would normally be protected by the Constitution because they have a Second Amendment right to own their firearms, they've been targeted as a group by the bill."
Hogan was not in Annapolis during the rally, a spokeswoman said. He spoke to the Fraternal Order of Police Board of Directors convention in Ocean City in the morning, then made stops in Salisbury and St. Michaels.
"The governor has always supported common-sense policies to keep firearms out of the hands of individuals with mental illnesses or violent criminal backgrounds who could pose a danger to themselves and others," said spokeswoman Amelia Chasse in an email.
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She said "our legislative team worked closely with members of both houses to ensure that proper due process was included in the legislation," such as an evidentiary standard to issue a lethal violence protective order and a chance for the gun owner to address the petition against him or her.
The governor announced his support for the "red flag" law in February when he unveiled school safety proposals after a student shot and killed 19 people earlier that month at a high school in Parkland, Fla. Elected officials have faced increasing calls to tighten gun control legislation in the wake of such high-profile shootings.
Saturday's rally was spearheaded nationally by the National Constitutional Coalition of Patriotic Americans.
"Modern thinkers feel the need to strip away our natural-born right to self-protection by limiting the available weapons that are at our disposal," the group said on its website in announcing plans for the rallies. "They blame mental illness without documentation. They blame everything except the sole responsible party, the person involved in the action."
Organizers of the Maryland rally included My Brothers Threepers, which Danny Bollinger, the group's commanding officer, described as an unregulated militia that does community outreach, and by Maryland People's Militia.