WICOMICO COUNTY, Md. – Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis wants Maryland lawmakers to know he will not comply with any bill that restricts a person’s Second Amendment right.
Legislators heard testimony from constituents and public officials during a hearing on Monday that addressed 19 different bills related to firearms. When speaking to a room of people after testifying, Lewis reiterated his thoughts on these bills, Delmarva Now reported.
“We’re gonna let them know that we are sick and tired of being penalized for Baltimore City’s inability to control crime,” Lewis told the room in a video that circulated on social media. “If these bills pass, we will not comply.”
Lewis told Delmarva on Tuesday that he testified in Annapolis strictly as the sheriff of Wicomico County. He clarified that he was not speaking as a representative for the Maryland Sheriffs Association, which has not taken positions on any gun-related legislation.
Lewis has worked in law enforcement for 35 years. He said he was not opposed to every piece of gun legislation that has been introduced to the Maryland General Assembly. Rather, he only raises issue with the bills that would “further encroach or infringe upon law-abiding citizens’ right to bear arms.”
Hence, there are some bills Lewis believes he must stand against.
Introduced by Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary, D-13-Howard, House Bill 786 would require a person to obtain a license in order to purchase or otherwise acquire shotguns or rifles. Currently, in the state of Maryland, residents only need a license to have a handgun.
While the bill text does not explicitly mention confiscation of unlicensed rifles—long guns, it does say violators could face five years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
Atterbeary takes issue with Lewis. He said in an email Tuesday that Lewis’ statement of noncompliance with a bill like this undermines his duties as sheriff of Wicomico County.
“Any law enforcement official who publicly states they will not abide by, enforce or comply with the laws of our state should not hold that position,” Atterbeary said.
Another piece of legislation that Lewis took issue with is House bill 612, which would add a Colt AR-15 Sports H-BAR (heavy barrel) rifle to the list of regulated firearms in the state. Lewis said this bill, if passed, would lead to confiscation without compensation.
“There are bills that would truly make it a suicide mission for a sheriff deputy or a Maryland state trooper,” said Lewis, who personally owns multiple AR-15 rifles. “There are just so many reasons why this is unjust and unconstitutional.”
The National Rifle Association calls the AR-15 the “most popular rifle in America” and estimates more than 8 million people own them, USA Today reported.
Lewis pointed to Baltimore City and its high homicide rate as why lawmakers want to further regulate guns in the state.
“Law-abiding citizens are repeatedly being penalized because of Baltimore City’s inability to control their crime,” Lewis said. “And I’m sorry — I’m not someone’s puppet. I’m going to stand up for what I think is unjust and unconstitutional to the American people, including those living in the state in Maryland.”
Delegate Brooke Lierman, D-46-Baltimore City, said she welcomes Lewis’ involvement in searching for long-term solutions to the city’s public safety issues.
“I find it reprehensible that a Sheriff — someone who swears to uphold the law — would brag that he will refuse to comply with a democratically-passed law that is designed to keep people safe, especially after the horrific shooting at the Capital Gazette last year,” Lierman said in an email.
On June 28, 2018, a gunman opened fire with a shotgun in the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, killing five people and injuring two others.
However, Lewis takes a pragmatic approach. Instead of more restrictive bills, Lewis said he is in favor of “common sense legislation” that increases mental health services and closes loopholes that make it easier for criminals to get access to firearms.
During his time in Annapolis on Monday, Lewis said he saw many people there to testify and stand up for their Second Amendment right to bear arms. He added that he plans to be at the statehouse again on Wednesday for a hearing on gun legislation in the Senate.
As an elected official of Wicomico County, Lewis said he is sworn to uphold Maryland’s constitution and the U.S. Constitution.
“If I don’t uphold the laws already established by our Founding Fathers, then we as a country are no better than any other country that enslaves and impoverishes their citizens for their own leaders’ power and personal gain,” Lewis said.
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