Tips for your Testimony in the Maryland General Assembly

We welcome you, your friends, your family, and all 2nd Amendment and self-defense rights supporters to testify before the Maryland General Assembly in Annapolis. As current or potential gun owners, it's in everyone's interest to keep an eye on what our lawmakers are doing. We all know the effect atrocious gun laws have on us and the best way to prepare for what may be on the horizon is to read the bills and act!


Committee hearings set the tone for how a bill may (or may not) progress. Your voice is urgently needed here as the bills are more easily amended or sometimes squashed in committee. Testimony stays as a part of each bill for all time and committee members do remember how these hearings go. Some lawmakers have a vision of gun owners not based in reality. Educate them. Help them understand. Your testimony may very well make or break a given bill.

All current gun-related legislation is being tracked on our website with URL, tinyurl.com/guntracker. You can read the entire text of a bill, who introduced it, our position and testimony, and current bill status. Audio/Video streams and recordings are available for committee hearings there as well.

The Legislative Process

The Maryland General Assembly meets for 90 days each year from January thru April and is made up of two chambers: the Senate and the House of Delegates. There are 47 Senators and 141 Delegates, respectively. Bills are introduced into each chamber for their First Reading and then referred to the committee that reflects the area of law or policy affected by the bill.
 
 
The committees hear public testimony on the bills, can amend them, and eventually vote on the bills before them. The committee heads (Chairs) have tremendous power because they can decide whether or not to bring a given bill to a vote at all. If a bill is voted favorably out of committee, it goes to the floor of the corresponding chamber for reading and vote. The chamber may further amend the bill. If it passes that second vote, it's on for its Third Reading, where no more amendments may be offered. If a bill passes one chamber, it goes to the opposite where the process begins all over again. Both houses must agree to language in a bill for it to pass and be sent to the Governor's desk for consideration.
 
       
 

Visiting the Committees
In normal times without a pandemic, we'd be meeting our lawmakers in Annapolis. While we cannot be there in-person, bill hearings moved online where anyone with an internet connection and a MyMGA account may participate and make their stances on the issues known. All testimony in 2021 is being done so via Zoom. All committee hearings will be available to watch live on YouTube and also among the various committees' own YouTube pages (we've broken the links out to many of them toward the bottom of the Bill Tracker's page). Most, but not all, gun-related bills are introduced into the Judiciary committees of each chamber. In the House, there's the House Judiciary Committee (JUD) and in the Senate, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee (JPR). Currently, JUD is Chaired by Delegate Luke Clippinger (D) and Vice-Chaired by Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary (D)Senator William Smith (D) Chairs the JPR and Senator Jeff Waldstreicher (D) serves as the Vice-Chair. Sometimes gun-related bills find their way into other committees. You can see all of those HERE by toggling between the Senate/House tabs on the left side of the page. Each committee has its own rules for the submission of testimony and whoever is chairing each committee decides the procedures for what bills are called, the order they're called in, when and who may testify, for how long, and any other conditions they deem necessary. These rules are brand new, so it's best to defer directly to the committee's site for reference on the procedures for this:

House Judiciary Witness Guidelines
Senate Judicial Proceedings Witness Guidelines

To sign-up to testify on a bill, you must first make a MyMGA account. You will be asked to provide identifying information and a confirmation will be sent to your provided email address (Note: ONLY enter an organization in the last field if you've been given permission and instruction by that organization to speak on its behalf).

The signup window for bills is only available two days ahead of a bill's hearing between the hours of 8am and 3pm (the chart below was made at the beginning of session by the MGA when the time was 10am).
SignupSchedule

Once you've signed in, navigate to Witness Signup which you can get to by clicking the MyMGA logo in the top right of the webpage. Select the bill or bills you'd like to testify on. Written testimony is preferred! You can select "Both" to also have an opportunity to speak to the committee, but this is not guaranteed as the Chairs have wide discretion over how the hearing proceeds.

BillSignup

Select your position (Favorable, Favorable with Amendments, Informational Only, or Unfavorable). Then select which kind of testimony you're providing (again, WRITTEN is preferred). If you'd like to simply state your position on a bill, you may just select your position and then select "None" in the testimony box. If submitting written testimony, you will need to upload a .pdf. Take your time here and be deliberate with your choices. Review your choices before clicking the Save button toward the top of the chart.

Written Testimony
Written testimony is the only method this year to be sure that your input is given for or against a bill. You're also not limited by time like you are when speaking and are free to be as descriptive as you please. All written testimony should include your name, address, contact info, and clearly state your position: Support, Oppose, or Informational Only. Likewise, you can ask the Committee for a favorable or unfavorable report. Testimony must be submitted in PDF format via the MyMGA Witness Signup page.

Oral Testimony
All oral testimony is being presented via Zoom this year and all participants must have a camera and microphone available from the device you're using Zoom from. You will be contacted via email before the hearing to let you know whether or not you've been selected to testify. You are NOT guaranteed an opportunity to speak before the committee. The Chairs have discretion over how many witnesses there are and who's chosen. As stated, each committee has its own rules for how testimony will play out. Generally (but not always), a bill or series of bills will be announced. The sponsor of the bill (Senator or Delegate) will describe the bill and testify on why it’s needed. They may bring up witnesses they’ve selected to speak in support of the bill. Once they’ve finished, the chair of the committee may call upon a few pre-selected participants. Others among the public may be chosen. Though you might not be picked, be prepared in case you are. The witness will be given a set time to testify (usually only a minute or two) on the bill or bills before them. Reading what you’ve submitted as written testimony is generally frowned upon. Instead here are some tips to help you along: 

  • Remember that whether you like it or not, you're an ambassador for the supporters of the 2nd Amendment and self-defense rights supporters sitting behind you and the rest of us. Do everyone proud!
  • Briefly introduce yourself and where you're from.
  • Respectfully speak your mind.
  • Drive home how the bill personally affects you.
  • Use your personal experiences and expertise to advocate from positions of strength. 
  • Avoid redundancy. Make or further a point that has not been stated yet by someone else.
  • Be sincere and concise.
  • Dress and present yourself appropriately.

This is very much like live TV, so dress yourself and your background from for the part. Committee members may ask questions of you, so be ready to think on your feet. When the committee is finished hearing you, they’ll call the next name and so on. If you’re called upon and someone has already covered your points, it doesn’t hurt to simply say “Support” or “Oppose” and cede your time (the Chair likes that). Even a cheeky "Ditto!" can do.

Other bills may be heard before the gun-related bills come up, so be prepared to wait some time to speak. These hearings can last quite a while and sometimes very late into the evening (and sometimes longer!).

We have a running playlist over at our YouTube Channel of testimony so you can get a feel for what to expect.




Wrapping Up

As always, you can reach out to Maryland Shall Issue from our website, social media, or at  for any other questions and help you may need. Joining MSI will ensure that you are kept up-to-date on the happenings in Annapolis and supporting what we're doing to protect, promote, and restore the self-defense rights of Marylanders. Again, you can follow all of the bills this session by bookmarking and checking tinyurl.com/guntracker.


Latest News

Maryland Shall Issue, Inc. et al v. Montgomery County, Maryland

 
On May 28, 2021, Maryland Shall Issue, Engage Armament, ICE Firearms & Defensive Training, and several residents of Montgomery County, Maryland, filed suit against the County, challenging its enactment of Bill 4-21. That Bill criminalizes the mere possession of privately made firearms without providing compensation and redefines the meaning of "place of public assembly" to encompass virtually the entirety of Montgomery County just in order to criminalize otherwise perfectly lawful firearms possession in the home and elsewhere. The suit seeks declaratory and injunctive relief and an award of damages, including punitive damages. 

You can read the complaint HERE.

Read more ...

Hulbert v. Pope goes to Trial!



We at Maryland Shall Issue send our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Jeff Hulbert. Jeff passed this morning (5/3/2021) surrounded by his loved ones after a lengthy and valiant battle against cancer. He was an outspoken and stalwart proponent of individual rights and a fierce supporter of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. Jeff founded the Patriot Picket, a group that "hits the bricks" with stylized signs and pointed political messages in promotion and defense of those rights. Please keep the Hulbert family in your thoughts and prayers as we remember and honor Jeff.



A Decision Three Long Years in the Making (and it still isn't over)

The First Amendment protects the right to advocate so in fundamentally important ways, the First Amendment helps protect the Second Amendment. The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures, including unlawful arrests. So when two MSI members, Jeff and Kevin Hulbert, were arrested on the sidewalks of Annapolis on the evening of February 5th, 2018 for holding edgy signs that criticized the powers that be in the General Assembly, MSI and the Hulberts swiftly filed suit in federal court in Baltimore for a violation of their First Amendment and Fourth Amendment rights. The arresting officers were named as defendants, but they are represented by counsel from the State Attorney General's Office.

Video of arrests on 2/5/2018 - "1st Amendment Under Attack"

In an opening gambit, the defendants first moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim, but that effort failed when the Court didn't buy it. Then extensive discovery ensured, which was delayed with the pandemic. That discovery showed that the arrests that night stemmed from a call from the Governor's mansion to have the group moved because the "mansion" did not want to be bothered with questions or attempts at conversations by the protestors. Everyone (including the defendants and other officers at the Capitol Police) admitted that these orders came from the "mansion," but, amazingly, no one at the "mansion" could identify who gave the orders. We did discover that such orders happen as often as twice a month, or whenever someone at the "mansion" decides that the "mansion" does not want to deal with completely peaceful protestors lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights. We can only wonder at the identity of this "mansion" person.

Read more ...

Contact Info

Headquarters:

Maryland Shall Issue®, Inc.
9613 Harford Rd
Ste C #1015
Baltimore, MD 21234-2150

Phone:  410-849-9197
Email: 
Web:   www.marylandshallissue.org