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Montgomery County Lawmakers Under Fire For Attempts to Weaken Weapons Ban

A Washington Post editorial calls out Simmons and Dumais for push to exempt AR-15s from a proposed weapons ban. Montgomery County lawmakers say they were mischaracterized in the editorial.

(Updated 3:20 p.m.) Two Montgomery County lawmakers are being criticized for efforts to weaken a proposed assault weapons ban.

In an editorial published Friday (see “Maryland’s shrinking assault-weapons ban”), The Washington Post criticized delegates Luiz R.S. Simmons (D-Dist. 17) and Kathleen M. Dumais (D-Dist. 15), both of Rockville, for suggesting the ban exempt AR-15s, semiautomatic weapons used by the Aurora, CO, shooter and in the Beltway sniper attacks.

The Post editorial said:

“…the reality is that the number of Marylanders with a legitimate need to own AR-15s is minuscule. By contrast, repeated, tragic and bloody experience in Maryland and elsewhere in the United States makes plain the overwhelming need for a comprehensive ban on assault weapons.”

The editorial is posted at WashingtonPost.com.

Political blog Maryland Juice put the news in its “JuiceBlender” on Tuesday and said that The Post’s recent coverage of the proposed assault weapons ban “indicates that Del. Kathleen Dumais has been swayed by extremely flimsy policy logic.”

The Juice post said the NRA “succeeded in scaring some lawmakers” and listed the office number and emails for Dumais and Simmons, urging readers to contact the “MoCo Delegates who are wavering on the assault weapons ban.”

Dumais responded in a lengthy letter to Maryland Juice on Tuesday accusing The Post and other media of focusing on one aspect of the proposed legislation and offered to tell “the rest of the story.” In exerpt, Dumais said:

“It is easy to jump on a National bandwagon and, no pun intended, take pot shots at legislators doing their jobs in order to advance a particular agenda.  But, I really wish someone on the Post Editorial Board had investigated beyond this single, oversimplified issue of an ‘assault weapon ban.’ Or, had even taken the time to understand the rest of the components of the pending legislation.”

The political blog also posted a letter Simmons sent to The Post on Sunday in which he claims the paper’s editorial mischaracterized his stance on assault weapons:

“I have always supported a general ban on assault weapons and have said nothing or done nothing to the contrary,” Simmons states in the letter. “Your editorial writer has evidently confused my position with the public position of my colleague Delagate Kathleen Dumais.”

Both letters are posted at Maryland Juice

Where this is coming from

In Annapolis, the assault weapons ban passed the Senate but is being bogged down in a House Judiciary Committee, of which Dumais is vice chair and Simmons is a member. Some of the changes being proposed would keep semiautomatic rifles legal in Maryland, according to The Post.

In a story published in The Baltimore Sun on Thursday, Dumais said gun owners use AR-15s for target shooting and hunting, and noted that gun-buyers in Maryland must go through a criminal background check.

"The AR-15 is not as scary as we once thought," Dumais told The Sun.

The local debate comes as The White House’s gun reform package lost a major provision—a ban on assault weapons, The Huffington Post reports.

"I'm not going to try to put something on the floor that won't succeed," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told HuffPo. "I think the worst of all worlds would be to bring something to the floor and it dies there."

Opponents stage rally

Such sentiments don’t seem to jibe with a recent poll that found most Marylanders favored stricter state gun laws—from bans on assault-style weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines to fingerprinting anyone who buys a gun, Patch reported earlier this month.

A group planned to rally Tuesday at the State House to advocate for an assault weapons ban and stricter gun laws in Maryland.

“As moms, we will remain focused on the safety of our children rather than be influenced or even intimidated by powerful gun industry lobby groups,” Shannon Watts, founder of the group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said in a press release.

“We will not wait for one more horrific mass shooting of our children for legislators to wake up and finally pass needed laws that we know will make a difference,” Watts said.

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Editor's note: This story has been updated since it was originally published to include delegates Luiz R.S. Simmons (D-Dist. 17) and Kathleen M. Dumais (D-Dist. 15) responses to a Washington Post editorial.

dwb March 27, 2013 at 12:59 PM
the vast majority of homicide in baltimore is drug and gang related (over 70% of the victims had a prior drug conviction, and 40% had a prior weapons crime). If we got the criminals off the street and Baltimore City stopped graduating new ones, they might have a chance of reducing crime. Its easy to forget that lots of states like Minnesota, Virginia, Vermont... I could go on and on... have less strict gun laws but also much lower homicide rates (because they also graduate 90% of their high school students). We dont need more juvenile jails or more gun laws, we need to focus on schools and break the cycle. I wish reporters would actually do research instead of regurgitating Bloomberg's failed agenda. Maryland already is highly rated by the Brady Campaign and has some of the strictest laws on the books. The same criminals who are getting drugs will just go around them like they do now. Dumais is rightly worried that in 2014 after these feel-good laws have passed and homicide is as high as ever, the voters will not be pleased.
Joe M March 27, 2013 at 12:59 PM
Never let's facts get in the way of a good story (or propaganda). Did you know that in the state of Maryland, simply by being a resident I am 50% more likely to be murdered than my father living in Texas. In 2011, San Antonio, with a population of 1.2 million had less than 90 murders of any type. Baltimore with half the population at 600,000 had more than 200 murders. In Texas, any lawful citizen can obtain a concealed carry permit after a 6 hour course, and there is no waiting period with purchasing a firearm. They are required to submit to the federal NICS background check. This bill will put your children in greater danger, not less. As they grow up, our kids will learn to fear guns instead of respecting them, and only the criminals will have the ability to wield their power for evil, instead of my daughter using it to save her from rape or murder.
C.Z. Guy March 27, 2013 at 01:12 PM
Do her homework on the issue? That would be what a real journalist would do. Instead, she dedicates about 20% of the story to regurgitating the anti-2A pablum cranked about by a group that's barely 3 months old.
Mike Francis March 27, 2013 at 01:28 PM
Why would you use the Washington Post as the benchmark for what is right or wrong unless you were way too naive?
AndThenAgain March 28, 2013 at 04:32 AM
It really is a little bizarre to read a Patch news item that panders so blatantly to the Washington Post editorial board. That said, since 2004 Maryland has suffered more than 4,000 murders. Of those, the annual average committed with a rifle of any kind is fewer than four. Maryland has no crisis of rifle violence, only a crisis of cynical politicians trying to exploit fear. Fear of rifles which have long been commonplace in the state: over 70,000 of them. 70,000 *un*connected with crime. Some legislators know this. Some prefer not to. I'll be voting for politicians with a sense of integrity and a predilection for evidence-based crime policy, not hysteria. Let's hope that category includes legislators like Dumais and Simmons. We'll see.

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