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

March Litigation Update and Other News



1. The Rapid Fire Trigger Activator case:  The Supreme Court case is MSI v. Hogan, No. 20-855 (US).  There, MSI and the individual plaintiffs have challenged as a Taking Maryland's ban on possession of previously lawfully owned and acquired "rapid fire trigger activators."  We lost that challenge in the Fourth Circuit in a split 2-1 decision, with a compelling and lengthy dissent by Judge Richardson. MSI v. Hogan, 963 F.3d 356 (4th 2020). We have thus filed a petition for certiorari with Supreme Court, asking the Court to review the Fourth Circuit's ruling.  MSI also filed an amicus brief with the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in The Modern Sportsman, LLC v. United States, No. 20-1077 (Fed. Cir.), where a similar Takings issue is pending arising from the ATF's regulatory ban on bump stocks. That case was heard by the Federal Circuit at oral argument on December 8 and a decision is pending. The theory is simple:  If the government is going to ban the possession of lawfully acquired private property and thereby destroy all property rights in that property, then the State should pay for it. The State's Opposition to our petition for certiorari is due on March 29, after which we will file a reply brief. We may have a decision by the Court on whether to hear the case in late April or May. If the petition is granted, the case will be fully briefed over the summer with oral argument likely in the Fall. 

2. The HQL litigation:  MSI, along with individual plaintiffs and Atlantic Guns in Rockville, have challenged the constitutionality of the Handgun Qualification License requirement that was enacted as part of the so-called Firearms Safety Act of 2013. The district court initially dismissed the case on grounds that none of the plaintiffs had standing to sue and thus refused to reach the merits.  We appealed and, this last summer, that standing ruling was reversed by the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. MSI v. Hogan, 971 F.3d 199 (4th Cir. 2020). On remand, the parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment and motions to strike. Those proceedings and briefings are still in progress. After full briefing, the district court may hold a hearing and will render a decision in due course.  

3. The First Amendment suit:  MSI, along with the Hulbert brothers, filed suit in federal court challenging the arrests that took place in Annapolis in 2018 of the Hulberts, who were peacefully and lawfully demonstrating on a public sidewalk (a.k.a, a "public forum"). After all, the First Amendment protects the right to advocate in support of the Second Amendment. The arrests at issue in this case thus chill advocacy by MSI and by every MSI member. The federal district court has already denied the defendants' earlier attempt to dismiss the case. Hulbert v. Pope, 2019 WL 1409707 (D. Md. 2019). Although the case was delayed by the COVID 19 pandemic, the parties have completed extensive pre-trial discovery and, as expected, the defendants have recently moved for summary judgment. That motion has been fully briefed and is awaiting a decision by the federal judge.  When that motion fails (as it should), we intend to take this case to a jury and recover substantial damages and equitable relief. 
 
4. The Challenge to the "Good and Substantial Reason" case:  Last, but hardly least, MSI has joined with the Firearms Policy Coalition, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, the Second Amendment Foundation, and a number of individuals to challenge the constitutionality of Maryland's "good and substantial reason" requirement for the issuance of a wear and carry permit. The case name is Call v. Jones, No. 20-3304 (D. Maryland). The point of that suit is to challenge the Fourth Circuit's prior decision in Woollard v. Gallagher, 712 F.3d 865 (4th Cir. 2013) (in which the court sustained the requirement) by bringing this issue to the Supreme Court.  As expected, on March 19, the district court dismissed the complaint on the basis that Woollard was controllingThe plaintiffs will be filing a notice of appeal with the Fourth Circuit, which will likely summarily affirm on the basis of Woollard, just as it did in Malpasso v. Pallozzi, 767 Fed. Appx. 525 (4th Cir. 2019), where the same issue was raised by different parties. Once the Fourth Circuit acts on this appeal, a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court will be appropriate. Stated simply, the Woollard decision is in direct conflict with the D.C. Circuit's later decision in Wrenn v. District of Columbia, 864 F.3d 650, 661 (D.C. Cir. 2017), where the court held that the Second Amendment protected “the individual right to carry common firearms beyond the home for self-defense—even in densely populated areas, even for those lacking special self-defense needs.” As a result of Wrenn, the District of Columbia is now a "shall issue" jurisdiction, just like 42 states. Sooner or later, that will likewise be the law in Maryland. Indeed, this very issue is presently before the Supreme Court on a petition for certiorari filed in NYSRPA v. Corlett, No. 20-843, docketed Dec. 23. 2020) (U.S.).  That petition will likely be considered by the Court at a Friday conference in April.  So stay tuned. If certiorari is denied in Corlett, we will be presenting the same issue in this case. The Second Amendment cannot mean one thing in 42 states (and in D.C.) and something else in Maryland!
 
License, Registration, and Permit Renewals
Recently, Governor Hogan issued new executive orders related to COVID-19 that undo the suspension of expiration dates for all licenses issued by the State. If your carry permit would have expired over the last year, you must now submit a renewal application for their permit by June 30th, 2021. To learn more, see the notice from the Maryland State Police HERE.
April MSI Membership Meeting
MSI will hold its next membership meeting online via Zoom on April 10th, 2021 at 1:30 pm. Links to join the meeting will be distributed to all active paid members only via email, so be sure that your current profile information on the MSI website is up to date. We will be giving updates on where the gun bills stand in the legislature, litigation updates, plans MSI has moving ahead, and much more.

 

Upcoming Events
If interested in volunteering, reach out to . Booth volunteers who do four shifts in a year get their MSI membership comped! They also may get into the show for free.

Baltimore County Game & Fish Gun Show
Saturday, 3 April - 8 AM to 5 PM

Baltimore County Game & Fish
3400 Northwind Rd.
Baltimore, MD 21234

MSI Membership Meeting
Saturday, April 10th at 1:30 pm

Online via Zoom

Frederick Gun Show
April 10th and 11th
Saturday - 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Sunday - 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM

Frederick County Fairgrounds
797 E Patrick St
Frederick, MD 21701

AGC Range Day

AGC Range Day is Sunday, April 11 from 8 am - 12 pm, please come out to help get the range ready for the upcoming year. Volunteers are welcomed to stick around to enjoy shooting on the 100yd range with us from 1 pm - 4 pm and those who help do earn credit toward their badge fees with the AGC.

If you would like to volunteer, please contact Michael Burke at  for more details and let him know what time you will be able to stop by so he can provide our club volunteer info to AGC.

 

Timonium Gun Show
April 17 and 18th
Saturday - 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Sunday - 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM

Timonium Fairgrounds
2200 York Rd
Timonium, MD 21093

Chantilly Gun Show
April 23rd, 24th, and 25th
Friday: 1:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Saturday: 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Sunday: 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Dulles Expo Center
4320 Chantilly Shopping Center
Chantilly, VA 20153

MSI Goes to the Supreme Court

    On December 21st, 2020, Maryland Shall Issue, Inc., filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari before the Supreme Court of United States in Maryland Shall Issue, Inc et al. v Hogan. Read the petition HERE.

Update 12/29/2020: The Supreme Court has docketed the case. https://www.supremecourt.gov/Search.aspx?FileName=/docket/docketfiles/html/public/20-855.html

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