When Maryland Democrats approved their Bruen response bill earlier this year, creating a large number of “gun-free zones” and adding more bureaucratic B.S. to the process of obtaining a carry permit, they did so without the support of one of the caucus’s leaders. House Speaker Pro Tempore Sheree Sample Hughes was actually one of three House Democrats to vote against SB 1 earlier this year, and it came with a political price.
In May, House Speaker Adrienne Jones tried to remove Sample Hughes from her leadership position, and her refusal to go along with the gun control bill was one of the main reasons why she was suddenly unfit to serve as Speaker Pro Tempore.
The meeting with Sample-Hughes happened hours before Gov. Wes Moore sat next to Jones in the State House on Tuesday, and signed gun safety legislation, SB1, into law. That law has already been the subject of litigation. Sample-Hughes was one of a few Democrats who voted against the legislation in April.
In a State House interview with a Daily Times reporter, minutes after voting against the bill on April 10, Sample-Hughes questioned the legislation.
“Are we setting ourselves up for unnecessary challenges in this space as it relates to people that are legally carrying guns?” she said. In a late April letter to the governor, the state’s Attorney General Anthony Brown said, “Senate Bill 1 is legally sufficient and is not clearly unconstitutional.”
Jones did not bring up the gun bill specifically in the Tuesday meeting also attended by Jones’ chief of staff, according to Sample-Hughes, but the former Wicomico County Council member said it was one of several pieces of legislation where she differed from Jones.
“There’s probably three or four bills out of 810 bills that we passed that, for me, as a representative of the Eastern Shore, I knew it didn’t match up with the people I represent,” she said.
Sample Hughes isn’t a Second Amendment stalwart. She voted in favor of the state’s “red flag” law a few years ago, for instance. But her stance that SB 1 went too far and poses constitutional challenges appears to be based on valid concerns and not political posturing. Now that a federal judge has granted a temporary restraining order blocking many of the “sensitive spaces” defined in SB 1 from being enforced, the lawmaker gets to tell her colleagues “I told you so.”
“I am in the same posture now, I did not support the legislation, as I saw the trend of New York’s bill being struck down and legislation -we pass legislation that gets at the legal person who is carrying in, who’s going through the classes and making certain that they are carrying their weapons legally and but not putting as much emphasis on the ones who are illegally getting the firearm,” Speaker Pro Tempore Sample Hughes said.
Hughes says she will continue to work to pass legislation to punish those who commit crimes with guns, including a forthcoming juvenile crime bill she hopes will receive bipartisan support.
A Democrat who wants to fight violent crime by going after violent offenders instead of legal gun owners? Is that even allowed anymore? Now that I think about it, based on retaliation that came her way after her vote on SB 1, I guess the answer is “no, it’s not”… at least when it comes to being in leadership.
I may disagree with Sample Hughes on the importance (or legality) of “red flag” laws, but at the very least she seems to be taking a more thoughtful approach to Second Amendment issues than many of her colleagues who fell in line and backed SB 1 despite its obvious incompatibility with the right to keep and bear arms. Unfortunately, it would take dozens of Democrats like Sample Hughes or an even larger number of Republican candidates winning elections to turn the Maryland House into a body that respects the Second Amendment rights of their constituents… neither of which is likely to happen in the next campaign cycle.