Delegate Neil Parrott, the chairman of MDPetitions.com, spoke to a crowd of about 150 people. Surrounded by one state senator (Edward R. Reilly), five state delegates (Michael D. Smigiel, Sr.; Nicholaus R. Kipke; Gail H. Bates; Tony McConkey; W.E. Cluster, Jr.; and Cathy Vitale), an NRA official, several leaders of sportsman's clubs, and the Western MD Sportsmen's Coalition legislative representative (Ray Givens), Parrott said:
"God has given us rights and these rights are recognized in the Bill of Rights. This law [SB281] attempts to deny us that right [2nd Amendment right to bear arms]. This is an issue that was given to us and granted to us by God and the U.S.Constitution...we will not stand for this law."At this point I was expecting that he would go on to announce the petition. I think we all were poised to applaud as soon as we heard the official call to arms, until Parrott went on to say:
"We do not tax a right. We do not license a right. Yet this bill attempts to do both. A right is not subject to a public opinion vote. This is why we will not petition this bill for referendum."Wait, huh? I thought I heard him wrong for a minute. I saw everyone else glance around the room wondering if they too had heard it wrong. Then Parrott finished by saying,
"We acknowledge that this is already given to us by God, by the Constitution, and by our government. This will be settled in the courts and we expect SB281 to be overturned."I understand the concept of not voting on a right. It makes sense, but I'm not sure that I trust the court system, especially if a decision would get delayed long enough for President Obama to place another Liberal judge or two on the Supreme Court. I was not alone with this concern. As I walked around the room attempting to take the temperature of the crowd in response to this announcement I heard this concern repeated along with others.
Many thought that we should pursue both the petition and litigation. If ever there was a law that could be successfully overturned by referendum this would be it. Second Amendment advocates had united and fought hard against this bill and were prepared to work even harder to have it overturned. Ray Givens, in his remarks, said it well:
"I stand with Neil on this decision because I understand it. However, had he decided to do a petition I know that we would have had 100,000 people not only sign it but work hard doing whatever they had to do to make the petition a success. But, instead of working the petition, these same 100,000 people will be working as hard as they can to make sure that those who voted for this bill will no longer be in office after the next election."I kind of had a selfish motive for wanting the petition drive. I have not seen an issue that has united people and energized grassroots activism on this level since Obamacare was first introduced. Conservatives took a few hits since then and people were getting frustrated and tired. SB281 woke everyone up again and compelled people to get out of their comfort zones and become active in the political process again. I have met many amazing people who I came to know only because we shared a passion for liberty, our Constitution, and our God-given rights. I saw people using talents that they had forgotten that they had or never realized they had them until their zeal for liberty brought them out. I think a petition drive would have kept the momentum going for this issue and other Conservative causes.
I recently saw the rise of a fantastic organization called Responsibly Armed. There are two new Campaign for Liberty (C4L) groups, one in Frederick County and one in Washington County. The Frederick County Republican Club is on fire with a smart and energetic group of people that are engaged in educating and advocating for Conservative issues. There is new interest in reorganizing a Frederick County TEA Party. Just over the border in Pennsylvania, the Franklin County 912 Group is very active and has been a strong supporter of the Hagerstown TEA Party. I am reading intelligent and inspiring blogs such as the the Potomac Tea Party Report by Ann Corcoran. I appreciate those who are keeping us aware and teaching us our Constitutional history and what it provides for us in its purist form. I am really excited about the new breed of candidates I see who are going to run campaigns for 2014.
Yes, I thought a petition drive was necessary to get back what what stolen from us by SB281. Yes, I wanted another excuse to work with the amazing people and groups I have come to know and appreciate because of this issue. But I understand that if we allow a public vote to return a right, we could also see more rights taken from us by a public vote. I don't think we want to start down that path. Besides, I am confident that this new resurgence of zeal, talent, and dedication to our causes will continue. In fact, I get the sense that these things are all the laying of a new foundation for an important movement in Western Maryland towards defining our future as a region with strengths that other parts of the state just can not understand or appreciate.
OK Neil...what IS going to petition?