Rockville rally addresses gun violence, lack of registry

Montgomery County residents listened to speakers during a rally Sunday to end gun violence.   Photo by Suzanne Pollak
Montgomery County residents listened to speakers during a rally Sunday to end gun violence.
Photo by Suzanne Pollak

About 200 people braved the chilly air Sunday night to express outrage over what speaker after speaker called the senseless deaths that occur daily due to gun violence.

“Too many lives have been silenced as a result of gun violence. The toll is tens of thousands of dead every year. We cannot continue to tolerate this in a civil society,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-8th District) said during the Coming Together for Peace rally held at sunset in front of the steps of the Old Gray Courthouse in Rockville.

If the same number of people died from a disease, said the Maryland legislator, “the government would be on full alert” and find the money to discover a cure.

The hourlong event was sponsored by Montgomery County and Rockville city officials as well as the Brady Campaign against Gun Violence, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington and the Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence. Rabbi David Shneyer of Am Kolel and Kehila Chadasha played the guitar, accompanying the crowd to “Sounds of Silence “and “This Little Light of Mine.”

Van Hollen, who is seeking to replace Maryland’s retiring Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski, called it “gross negligence when you know there are actions you can take” to solve a problem, but refuse to do so.

He said he was working on ways to make it mandatory for a person to obtain a permit to purchase a gun “just like you need a license to drive a car.” In addition, he said he also was working to make sure anyone on the terrorist watch list cannot obtain a gun.

In an emotional speech, Cathy Mitchell spoke of her son who was returning home after an evening at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington when he tried to help a woman who was being assaulted.

“He did protect the woman, thank God,” but he was shot four times and killed in the process, she said as she gazed across the audience. “How can we not have gun registry?”

Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said 1,540 guns were confiscated in the county last year. “The fact is anybody can go on the Internet and buy any kind of ammunition they want,” he added.

Guns are used in gang fights, domestic violence, crime and other incidents, Manger said, adding that he believed some types of guns “have no place in a civil society“ and that the “gun lobby has a stranglehold on Congress.”

About two dozen men at the rally wore bright orange stickers that read “Guns Save Lives” and carried posters that read “I Refuse to be a Soft Target,” but most in the audience seemed determined to work toward the reduction of gun violence.

Referring to this weekend’s victory by the team Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett called “the Washington football team,” he said, “If they can win two games in a row, we can make progress on gun control.”

“We are witnessing the tipping line, folks” with more and more people favoring some gun control measures, said Robert Disney, national field director of the Brady Campaign.

“We must keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.”

State Sen. Jamie Raskin, (D-District 20), who attended the rally, said he was working on two gun control bills in the Maryland General Assembly. The first would deny the right of someone on the federal terrorist list to buy a gun in the state and the other would compel anyone convicted of domestic abuse to surrender their guns immediately.

Iman Faizul Kahn of the Islamic Society of the Washington Area in Silver Spring said the guns that are used to kill people here “are meant for a war, not a civilized society.”

He asked, “How many more deaths are needed” before action will be taken to limit the number of guns on the street? “We will not stand by and let our leaders do nothing.”

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