Gun-control advocates wait outside the House Judiciary Committee hearing room to testify on legislation that would require background checks on certain secondary gun transfers (MarylandReporter.com photo by Bryan Renbaum)

Widow of Capital Gazette editor gives emotional testimony on gun-safety bill

By: Bryan Renbaum, MarylandReperoter.com

Annapolis, MD- The widow of slain Capital Gazette editor John McNamara gave emotional testimony to a panel of Maryland lawmakers on Wednesday in support of legislation that would require background checks for secondary transfers of “long guns” such as rifles and shotguns.

“I know what it really means when people say it’s too easy for dangerous people to acquire firearms. Maryland may have some of the strongest gun laws in the country but it’s not enough. There are significant loopholes that endanger our families, including the loopholes corrected by this bill,” said Andrea Chamblee, a volunteer with the Maryland chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

Chamblee described the mass shooting at the Annapolis paper in which five people were killed and two others were injured on June 28, 2018.

“The Capital Gazette staff can never unsee my husband, John, looking up at the gun pointed at him and then falling murdered to the floor. They can’t unsee their own feet stepping over Wendy’s body. They can’t un-hear bullets whizzing past as they run for safety. They can’t unsee Rebecca dragging her bleeding body across the office floor, imploring first responders not to let her die so she can go home and see her five-year-old.” 

Chamblee described the personal toll the shooting has taken on her life.

“What has happened to me since my husband was killed … no bullets touched my body, but you can’t tell me there’s not a gaping hole of loss in my chest.”

In addition to McNamara, 56, the victims are editorial page editor Gerald Fischman, 61, assistant editor and weekend columnist Rob Hiassen, 59, sales assistant Rebecca Smith 34, and community beat reporter Wendi Winters, 65.

Last October Jarrod Ramos, now 40, pleaded guilty to all charges in the shooting, including five counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder. Although a judge ruled the same month that Ramos is legally sane, it has not yet been determined if he is criminally responsible for the shooting.

The legislation, HB004-Public Safety-Rifles, and Shotguns-Secondary Transactions is sponsored by Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, D-Howard. The legislation passed both chambers during last year’s legislative session but stalled prior to reaching a joint conference committee. Because of that, the bill had to be reintroduced in a new session.

Atterbeary briefly testified on the bill. She described it as “important legislation” needed to close loopholes in existing law. Atterbeary said the legislation provides exceptions for permanent transfers and temporary transfers. She asked the committee to favorably report the bill.

Samuel Levy, senior counsel at Everytown for Gun Safety, like Atterbeary, said the legislation is needed to close loopholes in existing law.

“This is simple legislation. This is legislation that will close the loophole that has existed for far too long in Maryland law-that still exists at the federal level that allows people to buy rifles and shotguns that are every bit as deadly as handguns and assault weapons-without a background check-simply by buying those weapons from an unlicensed seller.”

Del. Jesse Pippy, R-Carroll-Frederick, who sits on the committee, told MarylandReporter.com prior to the hearing that he does not believe the legislation would help reduce gun violence because most shootings occur with stolen guns.

“In discussion with law enforcement we found that in most of those cases the guns are stolen — and there’s been very limited effort to address stealing guns. And so what this bill does is it addresses law-abiding citizens simply transferring weapons.”

Pippy said targeting “long guns” could hinder the activities of sportsmen, as the legislation would pertain to certain types of rifles.

He said that to reduce gun violence, stolen weapons must be addressed.

“I think to move this state forward we need to look at addressing stolen weapons and I think that will put a major dent in some of the horrendous crime that we’ve seen throughout the state.”

The hearing began at 1 p.m. EST and was ongoing in mid-afternoon. Dozens of gun-control advocates from across the state showed up to testify.

A spokesperson for the National Rifle Association said they could not provide a statement on the legislation by the deadline for this story.


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