Well, perhaps this is a good news/bad news situation.
Let’s us start with ‘the bad news,’ which is the grassroots-led effort to halt the enactment of Maryland’s comprehensive new gun control package — The Firearms Safety Act of 2013 — until the 2014 November elections failed. The organizers of the petition did not reach the required number of signatures needed to delay its roll out and put the bill up for a public vote.
Under the laws of the Maryland Constitution, the petition-gatherers had until Friday to turn over to the state one third of the required 55,736 signatures. Had they reached that goal — some 18,000 — the rest of the signatures would have been due a month later.
According to reports, the gun rights groups that were sponsoring the petition were about 1,000 votes short.
“This means there were no successful petitions this year,” Stephen Ackerman from the Secretary of State’s Office said in an email to the Baltimore Sun.
Naturally, pro-gun control organizations saw the failure of this petition as a victory.
“This is a great day for Maryland,” Vincent DeMarco, president of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, told the Baltimore Sun. “We are thrilled that the new law will take effect as planned and we look forward to making it a model for the nation on how to prevent gun violence.”
But Sue Payne, the gun rights advocate who organized the effort on Free State Petitions.com, had a different outlook on the situation.
“This was not a failure,” Payne said in an interview with the Washington Times. “People registered to vote, they mobilized, and there’s a new place to register [petitions]. It was remarkable considering we were really at it three weeks and two days.”
Payne, who took charge of the referendum effort in early May, intimated that this was only the beginning and that those Second Amendment supporters who signed the petition can be mobilized in the future to vote against lawmakers who supported the legislation, which bans 45 types of so-called ‘assault’ weapons, limits magazine capacity to 10 rounds, and requires mandatory fingerprinting for handgun purchases.
“I’m so proud I tried to give these people a voice,” Payne said. “This is not going away. This is going to be something where we are going to be able to affect changes with tools of the Maryland Constitution. We’re going to make sure people know who really supports Second Amendment rights.”
Now, as for the ‘good news,’ well, the good news is that the National Rifle Association, which could have put its full weight behind the referendum, opted not to support Payne, but instead has made clear its intention to file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of The Firearms Safety Act of 2013.
Why did the NRA not want the public to vote on the FSA of 2013? Because the Second Amendment right to gun ownership should not be decided at a ballot box, particularly in a left-leaning state that has a history of being antipathetic toward a law-abiding citizen’s right to keep and bear arms. Plus, polls showed that, at least ostensible, there was strong support for the legislation.
The NRA has not said when exactly it plans on filing the lawsuit, but to say that it will eventually file one. It’s already supported lawsuits in New York and Colorado, which both have passed similar sweeping gun control bills in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Additionally, and like Payne’s group, the NRA plans on joining, starting and contributing to campaigns that seek to unseat those lawmakers who voted for the bill last month.
So, that is the good news.
What are your thoughts? Is it better to battle it out in court? Or should the people have been given the opportunity to decide whether the FSA of 2013 is right for the Free State?
Also, one could argue, why not do both?