OPINION - Hey Deb Rey, the Dems are not taking guns away

St. Mary's City, MD - I attended my first Town Hall Meeting last Saturday with Delegate Deb Rey at Ridge Volunteer Fire Department. I was interested to learn how Deb Rey was planning to represent St. Mary’s County on Maryland House Bill 159 - Weapon-Free Higher Education Zones. A link to the proposed bill is provided below.

The meeting was going just fine until some of the Town Hall visitors did not know what HB 159 was.  Deb Rey’s quick and deceptive answer was, “The Dems are coming for your guns!” Of course, in St Mary’s County, that sort of “Confiscation” rhetoric is bound to stir folks up. But let me allay some of those fears.  The facts are these: HB 159 does not seek to take away gun rights from law abiding gun owners; it prohibits the carrying or possession of firearms on Maryland’s higher education campuses. It is a common sense bill supported by the Maryland Chiefs of Police, the Maryland Sheriffs Association, and the University System of Maryland.

Deb Rey lead the discussion afield, implying that if on their way to the shooting range and stopped on Mattapany or Point Lookout Road, which runs adjacent to SMCM campus, they could be subject to penalties named in the bill. Here’s the truth: these roadways are County or State roads. The appropriate transport of one’s weapons would not put a law-abiding gun owner in any jeopardy whatsoever.

Can you cut through College Drive with your weapons? No.  But this is not new-- the College has a current policy that prohibits firearms on campus. This bill, if signed into law, will give teeth to the weapons-free zone policies of all colleges in Maryland. This seemed to upset Deb Rey, who spoke about not being able to go to the River Concert Series at SMCM with a concealed weapon. I suppose that what we learn from that statement is that some “law abiding gun owners” do not think they are subject to following the SMCM policy as it currently stands.

Another point of discussion centered on whether off-duty or retired law enforcement could be in violation of the bill. In fact, there are stipulations within the bill that would exempt them, but Deb Rey chose not to share that information with attendees. Instead, she focused on the need to always be armed and in self-defense mode.

I cannot fathom a reason that this fantasy of being the “good guy who shoots the bad guy” spins in the heads of so many concealed-carry advocates. The fact is that this type of vigilante justice interferes with trained law enforcement’s ability to determine the players in a confrontation with weapons displayed.   My wife is the Director of Public Safety at SMCM, she has been a police officer, and she knows this from work-life experience.

Interestingly, what didn’t get addressed at the Town Hall meeting was a reasonable concern that many of us as parents of college students have about accessibility of guns on campus for students.

Delegate Maggie McIntosh, Maryland, District 43, supports HB 159 and writes: “Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 24 and, when guns are involved, 85% of suicide attempts are lethal. With more than 1,000 suicides on college campuses every year, it is clear that something must be done to protect our students. Nationally, 9 out of 10 university police chiefs agree that the most effective way to deal with gun use is to prevent them from coming onto campuses. Additionally, 95% of college presidents are opposed to allowing concealed weapons onto campuses.”

Delegate Pam Queen, District 14 says, “As a professor at a Maryland State university, I believe that permitting the carrying or possession of firearms, knives or deadly weapons at public institutions of higher education by persons other than law enforcement could pose an unnecessary risk to students, faculty and staff and would create an environment that is not conducive to learning. I have great faith in the capabilities of our public safety officials to keep all of us--students, faculty and staff--safe and secure.”

Instead of insightful, fact-based discussion of this issue, we in St. Mary’s County get Deb Rey’s Facebook page, linking to scare tactics communication and misinformation: “I urge you to come to Annapolis tomorrow, January 31st and testify against this bill.  Tell Annapolis they can't have your guns!  And if they try to take them you will replace them in 2018!”

It’s Deb Rey that needs to be replaced in 2018. We need a knowledgeable leader that works on behalf of their constituency, not a special interest-focused individual who selfishly puts herself before the lives of students, faculty, and staff on campuses across the state of Maryland.

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