Tips for your Testimony in the Maryland General Assembly

We welcome you, your friends, your family, and any 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/guns2020. 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.
 
       
 

Getting to Annapolis
When coming down to Annapolis, pay attention to traffic and try to arrive early. I-97 can be finicky and parking availability is limited. Car pool with some friends if you can. Organize with your fellow supporters on social media and in forums. The more voices, the better!

The Legislative Complex Addresses:
House Office Building
6 Bladen St
Annapolis, MD 21401

Miller Senate Office Building
11 Bladen St
Annapolis, MD 21401

Paid parking is available in garages and a short walk away in downtown Annapolis, or at the nearby Navy-Marine Corp Memorial Stadium. It is truly in your best interest to arrive early as the parking garages fill quickly. You can take a bus from the stadium into downtown for $2 cash (have exact change!). The Calvert Street Garage is free to use after 6pm. Information on the State Shuttle can be found here.

Upon entering each building of the Legislative Complex, you must pass thru a security checkpoint and a metal detector. This is very similar to a TSA checkpoint at an airport. DO NOT FORGET to remove and secure any of your knives, guns and other tools long before entering or getting anywhere close to the buildings. Make sure any bag you bring in is free of objects you wouldn't try bringing on an airplane. There is an x-ray machine and they will have you put your belongings thru it. You’ll also need to present a photo ID to the security staff when getting screened. They’ll also give you a sticker to wear. Make sure to keep it on throughout your stay.

Visiting the Committees
Most 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). Judiciary is located in room 100 of the House Office Building and Judicial Proceedings in 2 East in the Miller Senate Office Building. Currently, the 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 ways 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 their own rules for the submission of testimony and whomever 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.

In the hallways close to the committee rooms, you’ll find touchscreens attached to the walls. Enter all of the requested personal information, including e-mail address and then select the bills you’re testifying on and whether or not you have a Favorable, Opposing, Favorable with Amendment, or Information Only position and whether or not you have Oral, Written, or no testimony on each bill that matters to you. If you have no testimony, you can still choose whether or not to support or oppose bills. Take your time here and be deliberate with your choices. Review your choices before hitting Submit. Once you’ve submitted, you’re all set. Stay close to the chamber door to make sure you get a good seat after they open up (usually within 10-15 minutes of the hearing start time). Be aware that you may not wear hats, bring in signs, or consume any food or drink inside of the committee rooms.

Oral Testimony
As stated, each committee has their 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 give a description of 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 will usually call upon expert witness panels: one to testify in support and one against the bill(s). After they finish, the chair will start calling upon everyone else who has signed up to testify, usually in alphabetical order of each witness's last name -- but not always. The witness will be given a set time to testify (anywhere from 1 to 2 minutes) 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!
  • Respectfully speak your mind.
  • Drive it home on how the bill personally affects you.
  • Use your personal experiences and expertise to argue from points of strength. 
  • Make or further a point that has not been stated yet by someone else.
  • Be sincere and concise.

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 and so forth. 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!).

Written Testimony
Written testimony is an excellent option for those that cannot stay for the entirety of the hearing. You're also not limited by time like you are when speaking and are free to be as descriptive as you please. Testimony must be submitted in PDF format from a USB flashdrive you provide in-person. Likely the best method for submission is to prepare a blank drive and then load it with exclusively with your PDF testimony. You must also bring at least one printed hard copy in case of an issue with the flashdrive.

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 Committee Rules: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/pubs-current/current-jud-faqs.pdf
Senate Judicial Proceedings Rules: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/pubs-current/current-jpr-faqs.pdf

Find the rest of the committees, using the left tab to toggle between House/Senate: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/mgawebsite/Committees/Charts

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/guns2020.


Latest News

Court Uphold's MD's Taking of Rapid Fire Trigger Activators

 

In a sharply split, 2-1 decision, a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has held that Maryland may ban the possession of "Rapid Fire Trigger Activators" by existing owners without paying just compensation under Fifth Amendment or the Maryland Constitution.  The majority ruled that no just compensation was owed to existing, lawful owners because the ban “does not require owners of rapid fire trigger activators to turn them over to the Government or to a third party.”  In short, as far as this majority is concerned, the State is free to ban the possession of any personal property without paying just compensation unless the State puts the property into its own pocket or the pocket of a third party.  If that is the law, then no personal property, of any kind, is safe from the grasping clutches of the General Assembly.  For example, the State could ban possession of your existing car and not pay a dime.  The dissenting opinion ably demolishes the majority's reasoning.  Needless to say, we will be seeking further review.

You can read the ruling HERE.  Stay tuned.

Maryland Shall Issue will continue to fight for the interests and rights of its members and the public, but to do so requires resources and your help. Consider joining or donating to MSI.

Background Checks for Firearms Purchases and Licenses Interrupted

Due to a systems failure on the morning of June 21st within the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Corrections Services (DPSCS), the Maryland State Police (MSP) was no longer able to complete background checks for Handgun Qualification Licenses (HQL), regulated firearms transfers (77R transfers), and Wear and Carry Permit background investigations. DPSCS have since restored their systems and the MSP have been processing background checks as fast as they can. We appreciate the efforts of the State Police to remedy the backlog as quickly as possible, though the bureaucratic processes created by the General Assembly compounds these issues for Marylanders who are merely trying to protect themselves.

From the MSP:

Background Checks Underway After Data System Restored

(PIKESVILLE, MD) — Maryland State Police Licensing Division employees worked throughout the night and will continue to work around-the-clock to address pending regulated firearm purchase applications after a state data system was restored late yesterday.

At about 8:30 p.m. yesterday, the State Police Licensing Division was notified by officials at the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services that the data system had been restored and access to background check information was available.  Employees at the Licensing Division immediately began completing background check investigations on the regulated firearm purchase applications that had been pending since a system failure occurred on June 21st.

Licensing Division employees worked throughout the night and will continue to work around-the-clock until all pending and incoming regulated firearm purchase applications have been reviewed and are being completed within Maryland’s required seven day waiting period.  Even with employees working 24-hours-a-day to address this, the process is anticipated to take several days to complete.  The Licensing Division continues to work with Maryland’s licensed firearms dealers to track any regulated firearm released after the waiting period, but before full completion of the background check process.

As of 4:00 p.m. yesterday, information from Maryland firearms dealers indicated that of the 893 firearm purchase applications eligible for release, 54 regulated firearms had been released to customers after the seven day waiting period had passed.  The individuals receiving those firearms were the first ones background checks were conducted on during the night.  There were no prohibiting factors found for any of those applicants.


As far as we know, there's no evidence or information to suggest that anyone's personal information was comprimised while the systems were down and none of the applicants whose dealer released firearms to them failed or would have failed background checks.

While the MSP have asked the Dealers to hold off on releasing any regulated firearms (handguns) until the checks completed, dealers may release regulated firearms on the 8th day after a transaction at their discretion. From the MSP's latest advisory on 6/25:

Should the RFD elect to exercise their statutory option to release a regulated firearm on the eighth day, we ask that the procedure listed below be followed:

1. The RFD will access their Licensing Portal;
2. locate the application to be released within the “SUBMITTED APPLICATIONS” section;
3. print a copy of the application;
4. verify that all information in “Section 4” is accurate;
5. both the RFD and the applicant will sign and complete “Section 6;”
6. scan and send the completed copy of the 77R to .

Additional Coverage:
Maryland Handgun Background Check System Crashes, Leaving Gun Buyers in Limbo - Washington Free Beacon
Citing a ‘catastrophic hardware failure,' Maryland State Police report delays in gun background checks and licenses - Baltimore Sun
Guns sold without completed background checks in Maryland - WUSA9
After ‘Catastrophic Hardware Failure,’ Dozens Of Guns Were Released Without Completed Background Checks In Maryland - WAMU

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