2017 Legislative Session Recap
Sine Die (midnight, April 10) has come and gone and the 2017 Session of the General Assembly is over. Thankfully. The forces of logic and sense actually did pretty well, considering what was at stake. My thanks go out to the folks and leadership at NRA-ILA, the Maryland State Rifle and Pistol Association, 2A Maryland, the AGC, the Western Maryland Sportsmen's Coalition and the Maryland Hunting Coalition. We all contributed. But most of all I want to thank our membership and others, who stood up and were counted with time, testimony, emails, calls, support, and signs. Thank you for your passion! It is a bond that we all share.
So what happened this year?
First, SB946/HB159 (the Campus ban bills), never made it out of the House/Senate Conference Committee, in large measure because reasons, logic, law and common sense convinced the Senate Judicial Proceedings (JPR) Committee to adopt a much different (and better) bill than what passed the House of Delegates. Kudos to Chairman Zirkin and the members of JPR for listening to reason. An especially big shout-out to friends of the Second Amendment on the JPR Committee, Senators Hough, Norman, Ready and Cassilly. Even though he sponsored the SB 946 and the original bill was truly draconian, we will still give credit to Senator Smith for accepting the changes made by the Committee. Chairman Zirkin likewise deserves recognition for making the Committee bill possible. Unlike many of our opponents, Senator Smith was a model of professionalism and decorum. Thank you for that. Finally, Senators Brochin, Norman and Smith sat on the Conference Committee and that Committee held firm against a truly ugly House bill. The bills never emerged from the Conference Committee for a vote before sine die. Kudos to these members of the Conference Committee.
Second, the ban on private sales of long guns bills (SB 948 and HB 1448), never even got a committee vote in either the House of Delegates or the Senate. Since this legislation was the main priority of the misguided anti-self-defense individuals (including Bloomberg) this Session, that result is nothing short of amazing. We pushed hard on the notion that the bills would require FBI NICS checks that were contrary to federal law. We pointed out that the FBI had already told Nevada it would not perform such NICS checks under a recent Nevada law imposing the same requirement. The Nevada documents that we attached to our Committee testimony may have been instrumental in persuading Chairman Vallario in the House, and Chairman Zirkin in the Senate to desk-drawer the bills. And, of course, it helped enormously that the facts and figures submitted during the hearings demonstrated conclusively that long guns are almost never used in crime. The Committees all heard that you were much more likely to get beaten death with fists and feet or with a blunt object than were you to die by getting shot by a long gun (any long gun). In short, these bills were nothing but mindless gun control, for the pure sake of mindless gun control. The Committees were also confronted with the hard reality that these bills would have severely criminalized, and made into federally prohibited persons, thousands of hunters and law-abiding sportsmen who have long bought and sold long guns from their personal collections as a matter of course. Generally, voting for senseless legislation that puts law-abiding constituents into jail is bad for a political career. This defeat was so decisive that I hope that the forces aligned against us will wake up and abandon these bad bills for next year. That hope is probably misplaced (reason is always the first casualty in these debates), but we can always hope for the best.
Third, law and reason won out over raw emotion in the defeat of SB 467 and its cross-filed bill, HB 318 (the antique bills). These bills would have banned a prohibited person from possessing an antique or replica antique guns, which are simply not regulated under federal or state law. While the emotional motivation behind the bills is perfectly understandable (a horrendous murder in Germantown using a replica by a disturbed individual just released from prison on probation), we stressed in oral and written testimony that the crime simply would not have been prevented by these bills and the ban imposed by the bills was utterly unenforceable under the law. The House and Senate Committees saw reason and the bills never made it out of committee in either chamber. We fully share the outrage at this senseless crime and are pleased that the perpetrator was convicted of first-degree murder and is behind bars for life without chance of parole. In our view, that is the best form of "gun control" there is for these felons.
Fourth, our thanks and appreciation to Del. Deb Rey (R. District 29B, St. Mary's County), who came within minutes of successfully shepherding HB 1036 (the carry permit preliminary approval bill) to final enactment. A true hater, Senator Madaleno (D. 18th District, Montgomery Co.), amended her bill on third reading in the Senate at the last minute, late into the night on April 10. The amendment (which senselessly imposed a minutes keeping requirement on the HPRB) carried by one vote in the Senate. The bill was recommitted to the Senate JPR Committee, which then came back with a favorable report with the amendment. The amended bill then passed the Senate with 30 minutes to spare before midnight. Alas, the bill died in the House at sine die for lack of time. We will get this bill again next year. A shout-out also goes to Del. Sid Saab (R District 33, Anne Arundel), who sponsored HB 891. Co-sponsors were Delegates Anderton, Beidle, Beitzel, Bromwell, Buckel, Carey, Chang, Clark, Glass, Hornberger, S. Howard, Kipke, Kittleman, Krebs, Lisanti, Malone, McComas, McConkey, McKay, Miele, W. Miller, Morgan, Oaks, Otto, Parrott, Reilly, Rose, Simonaire, Sophocleus, Szeliga, and B. Wilson. That bill cut the training hours for a carry permit, from 18 hours to 6 hours for the initial permit, and from 8 hours to 2 hours for renewals. HB 891 easily passed the House Judiciary Committee but was recommitted to Committee by the full House when it came up for a vote on second reader. We now know that sort of bill will get through Committee in the House and it might in the Senate. We will try again next year. Getting a bill through Committee is often 9/10s of the battle in Annapolis. We also wish to acknowledge and express our appreciation for the stellar actions of Senator Steve Waugh (R, District 29, Calvert and St. Mary's Counties) and Senator Justin Ready (R, District 5, Carroll County) in staging a mini-filibuster that kept the HB159/SB946 Campus Ban Bills Conference Report (yes, the conferees did reach one at the last minute) from ever arriving for a vote on the Floor of the Senate just before Sine Die. Thank you, gentlemen! We have many 2A friends, like Senators Waugh and Ready in both the House and Senate. To them, I also say "Thank You!"
Fifth, none of the "shall issue" and reciprocity bills ever saw the light of day -- they were all desk-drawered in Committee, just as they were in the past. Those bills are filed by friends of the Second Amendment, including Delegates Rey, Impallaria, Reilly, Anderton, Arentz, Carrozza, Cassily, Ghrist, Grammer, Hornberger, Jacobs Kipke, Long, Metzgar, W. Miller, Otto, Szeliga, Vogt, Wivell, Clark, S. Howard, Kittleman, Malibem, McDonough, Morgan and Saab. Bills that would have extended the carry permit expiration period to 5 years (HB 821, lead sponsor Del. Rey, joined by Delegates Buckel, Cluster, Fisher, Hornberger, Kittleman, Krebs, Malone, McComas, McConkey, W. Miller, Morgan, Otto, Reilly, Saab, B. Wilson, and Wivell ) and SB 1091 (sole sponsored by Senator Hough) likewise never made it out of committee. The school carry bill for trained employees (HB611) sponsored by Delegates Impallaria, Kittleman and McDonough, met the same fate. Our thanks to these Delegates and to Senator Hough for these bills. We greatly appreciate the show of solidity against the lack of common sense that is so often found in Annapolis.
Finally, Annapolis is not the only forum for "shall issue." Two cases, Grace and Wrenn are still pending in the D.C. Circuit and Peruta has been re-listed for the next Conference in the Supreme Court (4/13/2017) on which Justice Gorsuch will sit. If certiorari is granted in Peruta and we win with the reconstituted Heller 5, then its a new ball game for the application of the Second Amendment outside the home. Alternatively, if the DC Circuit strikes down all or part of the "good reason" requirement imposed by D.C. for carry at issue in Grace and Wrenn, we will have a square circuit split ripe for Supreme Court review. In short, the "fat lady" has yet to sing on this issue. In time, "shall issue" will come to Maryland, one way or another. And I would be derelict if I failed to mention Alan Gura's case (Binderup/Suarez) now pending before the Supreme Court on the Government's petition for certiorari. In those cases, Alan won an important victory in the Third Circuit (which sits in Philadelphia), which sustained "as applied" challenges to the federal law (18 U.S.C. 922(g)) that imposed a lifetime firearms disability on the plaintiffs in those cases for non-violent misdemeanor convictions that took place many years in the past. Because it is the Solicitor General's petition in a case where there was a successful challenge to a federal statute, there is a very good chance that the Court will grant certiorari in that case. If so, we will have 2A decision by the Supreme Court this next term. A win in that case could be huge!
Mark W. Pennak, President, MSI