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By ALLEN ETZLER
ANNAPOLIS -- As more than 1,000 people, many of them gun rights supporters, lined up outside the Lowe House Office Building in Annapolis Friday to testify on Gov. Martin O’Malley’s gun control legislation, hundreds of gun control advocates rallied across the street with the governor.
Vincent DeMarco, national coordinator of the Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, led the crowd in chants, saying “save lives now” many times during the rally. O’Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown also addressed the crowd in support of the gun bill.
Signs covered Lawyer’s Mall in front of the State House pleading to halt gun violence.
“Licensing (and) fingerprinting could have saved my father’s life,” one sign read.
While gun rights activists are not set to formally protest again until Tuesday, many displayed signs of their own as they waited in line to testify.
“Why can politicians be protected by secret service with assault weapons but I can’t protect my family with one,” a sign read.
Police blocked off the area between the two groups, but that didn’t stop the verbal jabs from a couple of outspoken people.
As a group of more than 20 middle school students walked to Lawyer’s Mall chanting, “no more guns,” one person in line yelled, “take them back to school, idiots” to the students’ teacher. Another chanted, “no more liberals.”
Another person in the gun rights line yelled, “study the Constitution,” to a group passing by with signs advocating for fingerprinting and licensing requirements.
But in general, protesters on both sides were well behaved.
“We’re here to stand up for what we think is right,” said Kahlil Reid, one of the middle school students from Baltimore City Neighbors Charter School.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph F. Vallario Jr., D-Prince George’s, said 950 people were signed up to testify on the bill when the hearing started, and more were being added to the list. The line to testify stretched an entire block.
Shannon Alford, state liaison of the National Rifle Association, said among the many problems she has with the bill, the biggest one is the assault weapons ban. The features that are being targeted in the ban “are merely accessories and don’t enhance the lethality of the weapon,” Alford said.
Delegate Michael Hough, R-Frederick, called O’Malley’s use of the words military-style weapons “a scare tactic.”