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Fraser Smith's Essay: February 21, 2013
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February 21, 2013
Stricter gun laws may be coming to Maryland , but gun control advocates are taking no chances. WYPR’s Senior News Analyst Fraser Smith comments in his weekly essay.
It’s Maryland, of course, where Democrats predominate – and where gun licensing gets a serious hearing. And yet the issue still needs all the push it can get. Hence the appearance yesterday of Sarah Brady, whose husband was gravely wounded during a 1981 assassination attempt on President Reagan.
Jim Brady, Reagan’s press secretary, was that year’s marquee proponent of change. He and his wife have been crusading for more effective gun laws ever since. She’s joined now by many others, including former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot outside a Tucson shopping center in 2011.
Victim-witnesses appear in support of tighter controls now in a “brand new world,” according to Vincent DeMarco, President of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence. The slaughter of grammar school kids in Newtown Connecticut changed the world forever, he says.
How else to explain why 81% of Maryland voters statewide, including 89% of Democrats, 78% of Independents, and 64% of Republicans, said yes to the following question: “Would you support requiring a license to purchase a handgun in Maryland that would require fingerprinting, criminal background check, and safety training?”
Steve Raabe of Opinion Works, which conducted the poll, said it shows what he calls “a profound level of support” for the licensing idea.
The changed world, says DeMarco, is reminiscent of the change that occurred in Birmingham, Alabama, when police dogs were unleashed on kids. There had been plenty of dramatic moments in the civil rights movement, but this one was a game changer.
DeMarco says Governor Martin O’Malley’s bill calling for licensing is likely to pass because of Newtown, because of Sarah Brady’s eloquence and because of the polling data. The pro-gun lobby’s assertion that gun control is leading toward a ban has been neutralized by the U.S. Supreme Court which has ruled that guns may not be banned.
DeMarco and Rabbe may be right, but polls and star witnesses are probably still necessary to remind people of the ultimate leverage: Newtown.
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