Gun Right Supporters: Get Ready

There has been significant upheaval in the General Assembly in between sessions, particularly as it relates to the State Senate. Just this week, Senators Shirley Nathan-Pulliam and Bobby Zirkin have announced they are leaving the Senate.

Obviously the biggest change is the replacement of longtime Senate President Mike Miller with new, left-leaning President Bill Ferguson. But don’t sleep on the resignation of Zirkin as something of grand importance to conservatives, especially to gun owners.

Now let’s not kid ourselves; Zirkin was not a pro-gun Senator. Left-wing anti-gun activists worked themselves into a lather at the end of the 2019 General Assembly session about Zirkin suddenly being in the pocket of the “gun lobby.” Nothing could be further from the truth: Zirkin who was one of the lead sponsors of the disastrous Firearms Safety Act of 2013, and said “everybody is in agreement as to what we should do” regarding regulating long guns.

But Zirkin, for his faults, respected the process and respected the fact that laws make sense. That’s not something the new Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Chair is going to necessarily be interested in. And that makes a lot of conservatives in Annapolis nervous.

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A senior Republican legislator who spoke to Red Maryland on the condition of anonymity had this to say:

“[Zirkin] was a political moderate and chaired the powerful Judicial proceedings committee. The Vice-Chair is Tacoma Park Senator Will Smith. He is the sponsor of the Sanctuary State legislation, many gun control bills and assisted suicide legislation. This will move this committee further to the Left and greatly threaten gun owners. Zirkin was a moderate Democrat who enraged groups like Casa Maryland and Moms Demand Action because he refused to pass their whole left-wing wish list. Zirkin also had a good working relationship with Republican senators. The loss of Zirkin following the retirement of Mike Miller and the selection of Bill Ferguson pushes the Maryland Senate much further left. Historically the Senate has been the more moderate body, especially as of late.

Gun Owners should be petrified.”

So yes, this comes back to gun rights activists and what they should be doing.

Last year, I angered some gun rights activists because I said the gun community needs to be doing more to make Maryland a better place for gun rights. I identified four specific areas to improve: Register voters, Identify candidates, Do the Work of Supporting Candidates, and Don’t Give Up. Even at the time, I pointed out that this wasn’t representative of the entirety of the gun rights community and, bluntly, the people who got most angered by my piece were the ones not interested in doing any actual work to protect gun rights. Nevermind the fact that my record and the record of Red Maryland is extremely clear when it comes to being vocal and enthusiastic supporters of gun rights.

Well, everything I wrote last year now takes on greater emphasis. Because the General Assembly, particularly the State Senate, is moving much further to the left.  Farther to the left than it’s ever been before. And on top of it, anti-gun zealots like Moms Demand Action are loaded for bear and going to come back even harder this year than they did last year.

On top of it, anti-gun zealots like Moms Demand are going to take credit for Zirkin’s retirement. Never mind what Zirkin actually said about why he wants to retire, they’re going to take credit for it. The truth is of no concern to anti-gun zealots here. What all of this means is that “moderate” Democrats are going to feel even more pressure during the 2020 General Assembly session to cave to on gun issues and further limit your constitutional rights.

So let’s recap: legislative leadership has moved to the left, a relatively reasonable Senate Chairman, is retiring, anti-gun zealots are going to take credit, and the same zealous anti-gun groups are even better organized than they were last week.

Is it any wonder the Republican legislator told us “gun owners should be petrified?”

Now’s the time. Yes, it is important to begin to organize to contact legislators, both Republicans and Democrats, in advance of the General Assembly session. I shouldn’t have to point out (but will anyway) that any contacts with legislators on the gun rights issue (or any other issue, for that matter) should be done in a respectful manner.

But I hasten to point out that the gun issue is not going to be won or lost in the General Assembly in 2020. It’s going to be won or lost at the ballot box in 2022 when voters go to elect a new Governor and new members of the General Assembly. With redistricting on the horizon there will hopefully be more equitable legislative districts in 2022 that will allow for a moderate and saner General Assembly being seated in 2023. But the prep works needs to be done now, and should have been going on for nearly a year.

The rules remain the same: Gun rights advocates need to register voters, identify candidates, do the Work of Supporting Candidates, and not give up. That’s how you build a movement, build a legislative base, and stop the anti-gun hysteria in Annapolis (and, frankly, all of the other left-wing nonsense going on there as well). Now more than ever, if gun rights advocates want to protect their rights, it’s time to act.

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