Council, sheriff, state’s attorney oppose new gun restrictions

CAMBRIDGE — Dorchester County Council members voted unanimously Tuesday evening to oppose bills under consideration in the State Legislature that would restrict gun ownership and use. They did so at the request of Sheriff James W. Phillips Jr.

“There have been numerous gun laws introduced in Annapolis this year, I read them, and they’re just ridiculous,” the sheriff said. “There is nothing in those laws that make it tougher on a criminal who breaks the law. Everything in those laws is geared toward taking an honest, law-abiding citizen, and making you a criminal if you don’t abide by them.”

He said the proposed laws represent a further restriction on rights and the ability to hunt and “enjoy firearms as we’ve done for centuries here in this county.”

Mentioning State’s Attorney William Jones, who was also present, Sheriff Phillips asked the Council members to join them as the county’s elected officials “to let the citizens and taxpayers of Dorchester County know that we recognize their Second Amendment rights and that we’re going to stand united to try to preserve those rights to the best of our ability.”

Council Member Libby Nagel (District 5) made a motion to recognize the rights and to oppose the proposed bills. Council Member William Nichols (District 2) asked the sheriff for examples of the laws being discussed.

“The one that really got my attention, to put it simply: If I called [Council Member] Jay [Newcomb (District 1)] and said, ‘Hey, how about going duck hunting this afternoon?’ And he said he doesn’t have a gun, I loan him one of my guns to go hunting. If we’re out there hunting and we get checked by a game warden, he can possibly be arrested for having my gun in the blind, with my permission.”

“The possible penalty was mind blowing,” the sheriff said. “He can get a $1,500 fine and five years in jail. Think of this, now, this is where it gets ridiculous: If Jay is out there in that blind with me and he’s got a stolen gun and it’s worth $1,000, the most he can get is six months in jail and a $500 fine.”

“Now tell me the sense that makes. The idiocy in this…But where it goes a little further than that, is that you can’t have a gun unless it’s registered to you. But what about a grandfather or a father who has loaned his child or his grandchild a gun to go rabbit hunting or squirrel hunting? It happens here every day. I’ve done it myself 100 times. They’re going to be arrested for that.”

Later in the meeting, Council Member Ricky Travers (District 3) said, “I was very proud to see the council’s strong support for the Second Amendment tonight. Counties like ours need to stand up and make a stand right now, because as the sheriff said tonight, there are a lot of things going on in Annapolis that are being driven around the metropolitan area that are taking things to a lot of extremes, that have harsh effects on rural Maryland.”

“They don’t have a clue,” Mr. Travers said. “It’s absolutely ridiculous, some of the bills these people are putting out there.”