Annapolis, MD – Sheriffs from several counties in Maryland appeared before the House of Delegates on Monday to testify against gun control legislation they said violated citizens’ rights.
“The way the bill is written, it is impossible to comply. I can’t send [my deputies] on a suicide mission,” Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis told the Capital Gazette.
Sheriff Lewis said that sending out police to take guns away from law-abiding citizens will likely cause those citizens to shoot at law enforcement officers.
The sheriff said he would not comply with any of the proposed laws that would require his deputies to take guns away from law-abiding citizens, the Capital Gazette reported.
Maryland House Bill 786, proposed by Democratic State Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary, would regulate shotguns and hunting rifles much the same as handguns.
The law would create a long-gun qualification license and require background checks for private sales, according to the Capital Gazette.
And while the law doesn’t specify how long guns are to be confiscated from their owners, it puts the onus on the Maryland State Police to create regulations for executing the law.
HB 786 calls for a penalty of a $10,000 fine and/or up to five years in prison for violators, the Capital Gazette reported.
As it stands, Maryland law enforcement officers may be called upon to remove weapons in “red flag” cases, when a judge has signed an Extreme Risk Protective Order that requires the citizen to turn in their weapons and ammunition.
Sheriff Lewis said that “red flag” removal orders signed by a judge were different from what he was objecting to in the proposed legislation.
He questioned the motivation behind the proposed gun control legislation while speaking to a room full of people after the he testified.
“We’re gonna let them know that we are sick and tired of being penalized for Baltimore City’s inability to control crime," Lewis told the room, according to the Salisbury Daily Times. "If these bills pass, we will not comply."
"Law-abiding citizens are repeatedly being penalized because of Baltimore City's inability to control their crime," he said. "And I'm sorry — I'm not someone's puppet. I'm going to stand up for what I think is unjust and unconstitutional to the American people, including those living in the state in Maryland."
Sheriff Lewis also opposed House Bill 612, which would put the Colt AR-15 Sports H-Bar rifle on the list of regulated firearms in the state.
He said that, if passed, HB 612 would lead to confiscation without compensation for the gun owners, the Salisbury Daily Times reported.
"There are bills that would truly make it a suicide mission for a sheriff deputy or a Maryland state trooper," the sheriff said. "There are just so many reasons why this is unjust and unconstitutional."
Somerset County Sheriff Ronnie Howard and Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler joined Sheriff Lewis in testifying in opposition to the proposed bills in Annapolis.
Sheriff Howard said he also does not plan to enforce the law if passed because it is unconstitutional, WBOC reported.
He also said having guns is a safety measure for residents of remote areas.
“It would be very dangerous for someone to turn in their weapon, living in a very remote area and someone else trying to break into their house. I can't. I'm not. They need it for protection," Sheriff Howard told WBOC.
Critics said the sheriffs were acting above the law in their refusal to implement the new gun control laws if passed.
But Sheriff Lewis was quick to point out their hypocrisy.
The Capital Gazette said the sheriff likened his decision to ignore certain gun laws to Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby opting not to prosecute marijuana possession cases.