Guest speakers visit UMD to promote gun safety and awareness

A guest panel spoke to students and faculty at the University of Maryland about gun awareness on Wednesday, April 24, 2019. (Isaiah Smith/The Black Explosion)

A guest panel spoke to students and faculty at the University of Maryland about gun awareness on Wednesday, April 24, 2019. (Isaiah Smith/The Black Explosion)

Andrea Chamblee, the widow of John McNamara, who died in The Capital Gazette newsroom shooting June 28, spoke with other panelists to students and faculty at the University of Maryland Wednesday afternoon about the effects of gun violence and how it can be prevented.

Chamblee went into detail about how she copes with her husband’s death every day, and how the shooting has changed her perspective on laws she believes are not strong enough to prevent incidents like The Capital Gazette shooting.

“This is the civil rights issue of our time,” Chamblee said. “Representatives have had plenty of chances to pass better laws to protect people like my husband, but they didn’t.”

The Maryland General Assembly attempted to pass legislation that would require background checks for all purchases of long guns, even private sales. However, the House of Delegates and Senate were unable to come to a compromise on the bill.

Currently, the state only requires licenses for handguns. The alleged gunman in the Capital shooting used a a pump-action shotgun.

A panel of six other speakers sat at the front of the Edward Saint John Learning and Teaching Center with Chamblee, as they gave short anecdotes about what inspires them to advocate for tighter gun control policies.

David Mitchell, the Chief of Police and Director of Public Safety for UMD’s police department, spoke about his experience in the police force and said that one of the hardest moments in his career happened because of gun violence.

“Breaking news to the parents of the former basketball star Len Bias that their other son, Jay, was shot and killed in a jewelry store was one of the most difficult times in my life,” Mitchell said.

U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) was not a member of the panel, but he spoke as a guest at the event. He mentioned legislation passed by the House that he said will limit a person’s ability to purchase a gun. The bill mandates anyone who wishes to purchase a gun to pass a criminal and mental background check, including guns that are bought on the internet and at gun shows.

“This was the toughest piece of gun safety legislation that Congress has passed in at least a decade,” Raskin said. “Ninety-seven percent of the American people favored it. It’s remarkable there’s almost a unanimous public consensus around doing this.”

Boris Lushniak, dean of the School of Public Health and moderator of the event, presented statistics to give the audience a sense of how many Americans are affected by gun violence in a single year. In 2017, 173,668 people received at least one gunshot wound. Of that number, 39,773 people died from their injuries, with 3,443 being children.

“We are here today to present those in attendance with a few different avenues on how to confront the issue of gun violence,” Lushniak said about the inspiration of the event. “We not only want to discuss this issue of violence, but also come together to support those suffering from trauma received at the hands of a gun.”

The panel concluded the event by collectively leaving the audience with one final message: The media has a large role in not only making sure they cover the issue of gun violence fairly and correctly, but also by limiting how much information they publish when an actual shooting does occur.

“I’d like to see journalists not be so desperate to tell both sides of the story,” Chamblee said. “They don’t always need to repeatedly name the shooter or get a quote from a second amendment extremist to try and balance things out.”