There were plenty of new faces in the George Howard building Thursday night at the Howard County Delegation’s regular public hearing.
“This is the second time I’ve been in this building,” said Ellicott City resident John Canham.
He joined scores of others who did not attend to speak on legislation specific to Howard County, however. They filled the Banneker Room of the George Howard Building to speak out against proposed Senate Bill 281, legislation which would ban so-called “assault weapons,” and require fingerprinting for all handgun purchase.
“The legislation is obtusely written,” Canham said after his testimony. “It’s unclear and it’s a violation of the gun owners protection act,” he said, referring to the Firearms Owners' Protection Act of 1986.
Throughout the hearing, speakers made reference to SB 281 being a reaction to the shooting in Newtown, Conn. where, in December, 20 children and six adults were killed when police say 20-year-old Adam Lanza went on a shooting spree in Sandy Hook Middle School using a Bushmaster AR-15, one of the guns which would be banned under the new legislation.
“I find SB 281 has many flaws,” David Mackavoy testified. “It is a knee-jerk reaction to the Newtown tragedy, and does nothing to prevent another tragedy.”
Emotions ran high Thursday night and most speakers were followed by applause from audience, which filled most of the Banneker Room.
“I get emotional,” Travis Davidson said, excusing his cracked voice. “There’s a hidden agenda to confiscate our weapons … What really should be addressed is a bill to keep the federal government from taking our guns. That’s obvious.”
“I think anyone who is a proponent of this bill is an enemy of the Constitution,” testified Jesse Roberts, who said he was a veteran who had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He and Del. Frank Turner, D-Howard, exchanged a brief back-and-forth as Turner noted that he, too, had many law enforcement professionals in his family.
Roberts, who said he was a South Carolina resident who owned property in Howard County, made note of the police officers on patrol at the George Howard Building.
How many police officers and armed guards are in the schools, he asked, “And how many cops are guarding this county building? I count four.”
Police officers were assigned to the meeting, according to Howard County Police spokesperson Mary Phelan, though “specific details, including the number of officers, are typically not released because they are security matters,” she said. The police presence was, she said, “Routine assignment.”
At a hearing in Annapolis Wednesday, one of those people, who spoke at Thursday’s hearing in Ellicott City said he waited five hours to sign up to speak in Annapolis.
In Ellicott City Thursday, a few residents did testify on local legislation including two people who spoke in favor of HB 713, legislation that would allow state and local law enforcement agencies to confiscate property and money “ used or intended for use in connection with a violation of specified criminal statutes relating to human trafficking.”