Tuesday, March 26, 2013

JuiceBlender: 2 MoCo Democrats Trying to Weaken Assault Weapons Ban, PG School Takeover & Anger Over Frederick Cops

Below Maryland Juice highlights several tidbits of notable news and analysis for politicos:

JUICE #1: DELEGATES KATHLEEN DUMAIS & LUIZ SIMMONS UNDER FIRE FOR EFFORTS TO WEAKEN ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN - Maryland lawmakers are currently debating various efforts to curtail gun violence, including a ban on assault weapons. But the NRA has succeeded in scaring some lawmakers about these efforts -- even though a super-majority of Marylanders favor stricter gun regulations. Now Democratic Delegates Kathleen Dumais and Luiz Simmons of Montgomery County are trying to exempt AR-15 weapons from the proposed gun laws:

AR-15 rifle with a Stag lower receiver California legal (only with fixed 10-round magazine). Photo Source: Wikimedia.

The Washington Post editorial board this weekend condemned efforts by these two Montgomery County Democrats to weaken the proposed assault weapons ban (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST[The] Maryland lawmakers now wavering on banning military-style weapons include Democrats who are highly unlikely to face a serious challenge in a general election. In fact, a number of them represent districts in Montgomery County where large majorities of voters favor gun control. They should favor prohibiting the sale of assault weapons such as the popular AR-15 because it’s the right thing to do to promote public safety and it would reflect the interests of their constituents.

After all, a variant of the AR-15 was used by John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo when they stalked innocent victims during their killing spree in the Washington area in 2002....

A pair of Montgomery County Democrats, Dels. Luiz R.S. Simmons and Kathleen M. Dumais, both members of the House Judiciary Committee, said they were inclined to exempt the AR-15 from the weapons ban....

Indeed, recent Washington Post coverage of the proposed assault weapons ban indicates that Del. Kathleen Dumais may have been swayed by flimsy arguments. Specifically, some veterans have been arguing against the ban by claiming that shooting assault weapons is relaxing. But Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown calls that argument "nonsense" (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST: Since he has returned from Afghanistan, A.J. Wynne, 24, who was a corporal in the Marines, has spent countless hours shooting in the farmland north of Frederick.... “It’s not yoga — it’s not graceful in any sense of the word, but I could do this all day long,” he said....

Del. Kathleen M. Dumais, a Montgomery County Democrat and vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said veterans and competitive sportsmen were central factors in her thinking that a total ban may be inappropriate....

“It’s nonsense,” said [ Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown], the highest-ranking U.S. elected official to have served in Iraq. “The military trains us on these military-style assault weapons to perform a combat mission, and that combat mission does not exist in the communities of Maryland or anywhere in this country....”

You can contact the two MoCo Delegates who are wavering on the assault weapons ban below:

JUICE #2: MEDICAL EXAMINER RULES DEATH OF FREDERICK MAN WITH DOWNS SYNDROME HOMICIDE, BUT NO CRIMINAL CHARGES FOR 3 RESPONSIBLE COPS - Maryland Juice has been following the shocking story of a Frederick man with Downs Syndrome who was recently killed while in custody of three off-duty cops in Frederick, Maryland. The poor guy was watching a movie and wanted to stay for another showing -- but that was apparently too much for a movie theater employee, who proceeded to call three rent-a-cops (on loan from the Frederick County Sheriff's Office). From there, the cops apparently allowed the situation to escalate to the point that they handcuffed the young man and put him face-down on the ground. The case was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner, but this weekend The Washington Post reported that no criminal charges were being sought in connection with the death (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST: Less than five miles from the theater where a man with Down syndrome died at the hands of the law enforcement officials he idolized, a grand jury on Friday heard the details of the case and decided that no crime had been committed....An attorney for the parents of Robert Ethan Saylor, who died at the age of 26, described their reaction as “extremely disappointed and saddened and concerned....”

Nationally, the case has drawn wide attention from parents of children with Down syndrome and advocacy groups. More than 1,000 angry messages also fill the Facebook page of the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office....  [The] family has been concerned that the investigation was handled by the same sheriff’s office that employs the deputies....
Hundreds of Washington Post readers have posted angry reactions in response to the news. If you are unfamiliar with the basic facts, The Washington Post recently provided a summary (except below):
WASHINGTON POST:  Robert Ethan Saylor died last month in the custody of off-duty Frederick County sheriff’s deputies after he refused to leave a movie theater. The county is investigating, and parents of other children with Down syndrome have voiced concern.

As officials tell it, Saylor had been watching “Zero Dark Thirty” at a Frederick movie theater last month and, as soon as it ended, wanted to watch it again. When he refused to leave, a theater employee called three off-duty Frederick County sheriff’s deputies who were working a security job at the Westview Promenade shopping center and told them that Saylor either needed to buy another ticket or be removed....

The deputies restrained him using three sets of handcuffs linked together and escorted him from the theater. At some point, Saylor ended up on the ground and began showing signs of medical distress. A short while later, he was pronounced dead at a local hospital.... Late last week, the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Baltimore ruled Saylor’s death a homicide as a result of asphyxia....

Hundreds of residents have been speaking out in outrage over the incident on the Frederick Sheriff's Facebook page. (Note that Frederick County Sheriff Charles Jenkins also happens to be a notoriously anti-immigrant Tea Partier).

Maryland Juice highly doubts that ordinary residents earn the same benefit of the doubt or sympathy from prosecutors that the cops in this case likely received. Typical.

In the meantime, Delegate Jill Carter thinks she may have a legislative response to the death of Robert Saylor. She posted the following response on Twitter drawing attention to her bill HB1281, which would require training in the proper use of force and dealing with diverse residents. The bill recently passed the Maryland House 110-21 and is now being heard in the State Senate:

JUICE #3: COUNTY EXECUTIVE RUSHERN BAKER'S ATTEMPT TO TAKEOVER THE SCHOOL SYSTEM GENERATES CONTROVERSY - Last week Maryland Juice appeared on News Channel 8's NewsTalk show to discuss some of the legislative battles going on in Annapolis. But host Bruce DePuyt also brought on Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker to discuss his newly launched effort to take control of the county's public school system. The effort was quickly introduced in Annapolis last week, and The Washington Post summarized Baker's broad goals (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST: Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III is planning a takeover of the county’s struggling school system, seeking state legislation that would put him in charge of the school superintendent and $1.7 billion budget while significantly reducing the power of the elected Board of Education.

Should Baker (D) succeed, it would mark a dramatic shift in power and result in a hybrid of the restructurings that have taken place in big cities across the country, such as the District and New York, where reform-minded executives have wrested control of embattled school systems....
In comments appearing on News Channel 8 (watch below), Maryland Juice highlighted some of the potential political risks involved in Baker's school takeover plan. Below you can watch the News 8 discussion with County Exec Rushern Baker and Maryland Juice, followed by my comments on the death penalty, gas tax and more.

If you really want to dig into the schools issue, the PG Politics blog has been compiling news coverage about Rushern Baker's Prince George's takeover effort. Note however, that the PG Politics blogger is decidedly opposed to Baker's plan and has written a five-part series critiquing the schools takeover plan: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.




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