On Wednesday, gun rights advocates rallied in Annapolis, Md., to protest against new gun control legislation as the Maryland State Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on SB 281, the Firearms Safety Act of 2013. SB 281 contains provisions banning "assault weapons," requiring registration of such weapons, further restricting magazine capacities, and requiring a Firearm Qualification License and fees before purchasing or renting a handgun.
Despite media outlets reporting that only hundreds of people showed up at the rally, unofficial counts put the attendance numbers closer to 4,000. Although national organizations, such as the National Rifle Association (NRA), were in attendance, local communities and groups such as Maryland Shall Issue made up much of the rally efforts. According to some protesters, who arrived as early as 6 a.m., lines formed around the State Senate building in order to sign up to testify against the bill.
The rally officially began at 11:30 a.m., where a few Maryland legislators as well as local political figures such as former Republican Senate candidate Dan Bongino publicly addressed rally attendees. The speeches concluded at approximately 1 p.m., at which point attendees lined up to enter the Senate building to witness or testify on SB 281.
Shortly thereafter, rally attendees were notified that the Senate building doors would be closed, and authorities would not allow anyone else inside except those that signed up that morning to testify. Maryland Delegate Don Dwyer addressed the crowds of people left outside the Senate building and encouraged those in attendance to sign a form to show their opposition to SB 281 that would be entered into the public record.
During the day, testimony alternated between those who supported and those who were against SB 281. Testimony in support of the bill quickly dwindled as the vast majority of attendees packing the Senate building were testifying against it.
Many attendees were dismayed by the attention not being given to the testimony opposing SB 281 noting that many Senators would leave while the hearing was in progress. In addition, a picture has been circulating showing State Senator Raskin playing chess on his computer while testimony was being given in opposition of the bill.
With thousands signing up to testify in opposition of SB 281, the hearing concluded at approximately 9 p.m. without many getting the chance to voice their opposition to it. Despite the tremendous show of opposition organized by local gun rights groups and communities, the Maryland State Senate expects to pass a gun control package and have it on the governor's desk by the end of the current legislative session.