After last week’s unprecedented sit-in by Democratic members of the House of Representatives, county and state officials reacted to the protest akin to their federal counter parts—along party lines.
On Thursday, after Speaker of the House Paul Ryan decided not to call a vote on a gun control bill, some Democratic members of the House protested the move by staging a sit-in.
Most House Republicans called the protest a meaningless distraction from the real issue, while Democrats hailed it as an historic stand against the gun lobby.
“Well if it were Montgomery County, if we had the authority, we would’ve enacted all legislation to ban guns here,” said Montgomery County Council President Nancy Floreen (D-At large) in reaction to the protest by Democrats in the house.
Floreen said the sit-in was positive because people want to see their representatives experience the same frustration as the people they represent.
Kat O’Connor, owner of TK Defense, a licensed firearms dealer and ammunition manufacturer in Gaithersburg said she thinks Congress should focus more on national security rather than gun control.
“I think it was sort of a publicity stunt, I really think their focus on gun control is taking away from the focus that should be terrorism,” O’Connor said. “I think it’s a dangerous distraction and I’m very concerned with their apparent lack of respect for the Constitution and the constitutional right of our citizens.”
State Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez (D-18) praised House Democrats for standing up for gun control.
“I’m an old admirer and practitioner of civil disobedience and I think it brings attention to an issue,” Gutierrez said.
The bill in the House proposed a ban for people on a federal terrorist watch list from purchasing a gun and imposing a five-year restriction on purchasing a firearm for those removed from the list. Critics of the bill said it encroaches on Americans’ Second Amendment rights to purchase a gun and Fifth Amendment rights to due process.
Notably, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), who led the sit-in, was on a federal watch list.
Gutierrez said her some of her colleagues are preparing to introduce a bill in the House of Delegates that is similar to the federal bill and that she would happily co-sponsor it.
While Gutierrez supports a ban for those on a federal terrorist watch list from buying a gun, she said she sympathizes with the position of those who criticize federal watch lists, as her own son was falsely put onto an FBI watch list, and it took five years to get his name removed.
“I hate the no-fly list. I think it’s a lazy way for putting suspects on a list,” she said.
Gutierrez said that she wants Maryland to adopt a bill similar to the one proposed in the House, but would like to see the federal government fix the appeal process for those wrongly put on the list.
“I don’t buy into the noise, I don’t buy into the emotion because I know the numbers,” said Montgomery County Young Republican Vice President Dan McHugh.
McHugh said the mass shooting in Orlando was a distraction from gun violence in Maryland, largely in Baltimore.
According to statistics from the City of Baltimore, there have been 397 reported shootings there this year through June 18, already exceeding last year’s total number of shootings in Baltimore by seven. McHugh said strict gun control laws that were passed in Maryland have done nothing to curb gun violence in the state.
McHugh likened gun control to the war on drugs, saying passing more gun control laws will only prevent law-abiding citizens from owning firearms.
“Illegal gun owners are the problem in this country,” McHugh said.
Council member Marc Elrich (D-At large) said he was in favor of the sit-in, but is skeptical it will lead to anything.
“I was really glad to see them sit-in, but I didn’t expect it to have any effect,” Elrich said. “I’m just stunned that the Republicans are absolutely unmoved by everything. I just don’t know how that’s possible to not agree that terrorists shouldn’t be able to get weapons.”
Montgomery lawyer and Republican activist Robin Ficker criticized the sit-in tactic, saying Democrats should debate the issue.
“These members of Congress are elected because they are good debaters,” Ficker said. “And that’s what they should be doing in the House, debating issues, discussing issues, trying to persuade each other.”