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Democratic Governor Wes Moore v. NRA

Democratic Maryland Governor Wes Moore Takes on the National Rifle Association (NRA) June 11, 2023


In his dissent in the 1932 Supreme Court opinion, “New State Ice Co. v. Liebmann,” Associate Justice Louis Brandeis made this memorable quote, “a single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country (harvardpolitics.com, Baker, K., 12/03/20, the hill.com/opinion, Blakeman, B., 5/07/20).” On May 16, 2023, Maryland’s Democratic Governor Wes Moore signed the Gun Safety Act of 2023 along with other gun safety measures. The Gun Safety Act of 2023, or Senate Bill 1, prohibits “a person from knowingly wearing, carrying, or transporting a firearm in certain locations (cnn.com, Watson, M., 5/17/23).” People with a mental illness who have a history of violent behavior would also be prohibited from carrying a gun. People who have been involuntarily admitted to a mental health facility for more than 30 days would be barred from carrying guns. This law further makes changes to requirements for a firearms training course. It specifies that 16 hours of in-person instruction for initial applications include laws relating to self-defense, safe storage, and circumstances under which a person becomes prohibited from possessing a firearm. This law increases the fee for the initial application for a handgun permit from $75-$125. The fee for renewal or subsequent application for a handgun permit would go from $50-$75, while a fee for a duplicate or modified handgun permit would increase from $10-$20. Gun owners would be prohibited from carrying guns near schools, government property, and construction areas and entertainment venues. Unless given permission by the owner, people would be barred from entering someone’s property while carrying a firearm (cbsnews.com, AP, 4/17/23, wiki). This law additionally raises the age for qualifying for a hand gun permit from 18 to 21 (cbsnews.com, AP, 4/17/23, wiki). Another bill Gov. Moore signed into law at that time strengthens storage requirements for firearms. Under this new law, a person can’t store a loaded firearm in a place where he knew or should have known that an unsupervised minor has access to a gun (cbsnews.com, AP, 4/17/23). These reasonable gun control bills go farther than the recent bill Pres. Biden pushed Congress to pass. Gov. Moore was making MD a gun control laboratory for the rest of the country. And our country surely needs such a strong gun control laboratory. According to the Gun Violence Archive, in 2023, there have been more than 220 mass shootings in the U.S. (Watson, cnn.com, 5/17/23). On June 6, 2023, in neighboring VA, seven people were shot, two of them fatally, and several more injured outside a high school graduation ceremony in Richmond (nytimes.com, 6/06/23, Albeck-Ripka, L.).


Not everyone in the Old Line State was happy with this law passed by state majorities in MD’s two state legislative chambers and signed by Gov. Moore. On the very same day Gov. Moore signed these bills, the Maryland State Rifle & Pistol Association, that state’s affiliate of the NRA (National Rifle Association), along with a regulated firearms dealer, filed suit in federal court challenging these laws (Watson, cnn.com, 5/17/23). While Gov. Moore stated that these gun control measures “will help keep our communities safe from gun crimes and help get guns off our streets,” the NRA called these bills “unconstitutional” and ones that “restrict law-abiding Maryland citizens.” Gov. Moore had previously condemned the U.S. Supreme Ct. 6/2022 decision weakening gun control (wiki). Meet Gov. Moore.


Democrat Westley (Wes) Moore (44) is currently serving his first term as MD’s Governor. Takoma Park, MD native Moore is MD’s first Black Governor and in 2023 he is the only African American Governor in the U.S. (politico.com, Booker, B., 11/0822). Moore’s father was an African American broadcast news journalist. His mother, a media professional, was the daughter of Cuban and Jamaican immigrants (Cassie, R., baltimoremagazine.com). Moore’s father died when he was three. Moore spent his childhood and adolescence in NY. He went to military school. He later received his Bachelor’s Degree from Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, MD in international relations and graduated Phi Beta Kappa (hub.jhu.edu, 8/01/13). From 1998-1999, Moore interned for Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke. Before serving in the U.S. Army, Moore worked with the March of Dimes (watchtheyard.com, 11/08/22, Strauss, V., washingtonpost.com, 1/23/01). He also interned at the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security under Sec. Tom Ridge (Davis, J., baltimoresun.com, 9/20/22). In 2004, he received a Master’s Degree as a Rhodes Scholar in international relations (nytimes.com, Harris, E., 4/25/17). Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Moore was activated in the Army and deployed to Afghanistan from 2005-2006. He attained the rank of Captain in the 82nd Airborne Division. He left the Army in 2014 (Wood, P., 11/09/22, thebaltimore banner.com). Moore became an investment banker in New York. He published five books between 2010 and 2015. From 6/2017-5/2021, Moore was the CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation, a charitable organization that attempted to alleviate problems caused by poverty in New York City. This foundation funded schools, pantries, and shelters. As CEO, Moore raised more than $650 million, including $230 million in 2020 to provide aid during the COVID-19 pandemic (robinhood.org/wes-moore, 1/03/18). In 2010, Moore founded a television production company, Omari Productions. This company created content for the Oprah Winfrey Network, PBS, HBO, and NBC (Messner, R., baltimoresun.com, 12/11/12). In 5/2014, Moore produced a three-part PBS series, “Coming Back with Wes Moore,” which followed the experiences of returning veterans (pbs.org/veterans, 5/290/14).


In 2008, Moore gave a speech supporting Barack Obama for president at the Democratic Convention. In 10/2020, he was named to serve on the transition team of Baltimore mayor-elect Brandon Scott (c-span.org/video, 8/28/08, balitmorefisbowl.com, 10/20/20). On 6/07/2021, Moore launched his campaign to run for Governor of Maryland. He stressed the issues of “work, wages, and wealth” and ran on the slogan “leave no one behind (time.com, Ball, 2/14/23, Gaines, 8/26/21, marylandmatters.org).” During the primary, he was endorsed by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Oprah Winfrey, former MD Gov. Parris Glendening as well as the VoteVets.org (wiki). On 7/19/2022, Moore won the Democratic primary where he defeated, among others, former Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez. Moore took 32.4 % of the primary vote (MD gubernatorial Democratic 2022 primary). During the general election, President Biden campaigned with Moore twice. Moore spoke of his military service frequently to take the “patriotism” issue away from the GOP. He attacked his MAGA rival, state delegate Dan Cox for participating in the January 6, 2021 Capitol coup attempt. In “Blue” MD, Moore clobbered Cox by 32.41 points, 64.53% -32.12% (MD gubernatorial election, 2022, marylandmatters.org, Ford, W., 11/07/22, businessinsider.com, Dorman, J., 10/29/22).


On 1/8/23, Moore took the oath of office on a Bible owned by abolitionist Frederick Douglass (washingtonpost.com, Heim, J., 1/14/23). Moore supports hiring more probation and parole officers. He also favors pursuing police misconduct and increasing resources for law enforcement agencies (Brian, C., baltimorebeat.com, 11/01/22). Moore does not support expanding charter schools. He wants to focus on improving public school districts (Strauss, V., washingtonpost.com, 7/15/22). In his first 1/2023 budget, Gov. Moore proposed allocating $500 million toward funding the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future educational reform effort which the legislature later increased to $900 million. Moore signed this budget into law in 4/2023. Gov. Moore is for instituting universal pre-K and apprenticeship and trade programs in schools (marylandmatters.org, 2/18/20, baltimoresun.com/politics, 9/24/22, Munro, D., Janesch, S., 3/31/23, baltimoresun.com). Gov. Moore supports renewable energy goals set by MD’s 2019 Clean Energy Jobs Act. That law called for a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and an electrification of the state’s vehicle fleet by 2030. Gov. Moore wants MD to pursue “more ambitious goals” beyond carbon neutrality (marylandmatters.org, Kurtz, J., 11/23/21).


In 5/2023, Gov. Moore signed a bill that would require emergency rooms to include fentanyl testing in toxicology screens. In 1/2023, Moore proposed providing members of the MD National Guard with free health and dental care (Wintrode & Wood, 5/03/23, thebaltimorebanner.com, washingtonpost.com, Cox, 1/26/23). We should not be surprised by Gov. Moore’s strong gun control advocacy. In 2022, Moore supported a bill to ban the possession and sale of ghost guns in MD. He supports creating a firearms database to help law enforcement track guns used in crimes (Gaskill & Janesch, baltimoresun.com, 9/05/22). Gov. Moore opposes voter-ID legislation, calling it “voter suppression (Kurtz, 6/11/21, marylandmatters.org).” In 4/2023, Moore signed a bill to allow counties to begin counting mail in ballots before Election Day. Before this bill was enacted, MD was the only state that restricted processing absentee ballots until after Election Day (Sears, B., 4/24/23, marylandmatters.org, Koslolf, E, 9/16/22, wusa9.com). In June, 2022, after the U.S. Supreme Ct. overturned “Roe v. Wade,” Gov. Moore said he would support an amendment to the MD Constitution to protect abortion access (Gaskill & Janesch, 6/24/22, baltimoresun.com). In 2/2023, Gov. Moore joined CA’s Dem. Gov. Gavin Newsom in the Reproductive Freedom Alliance, an interstate agreement intended to strengthen abortion access in member states (baltimoresun.com, AP, 2/21/23). After a federal court ruling repealed the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone, Gov. Moore stated MD would begin stockpiling enough of this abortion pill to last two and a half years (Gaskill, 4/14/23, baltimoresun.com). In 5/2023, Gov. Moore signed into law a pair of bills that would protect patients seeking abortion and that would increase access to abortion medication. He also signed a bill creating a 2024 referendum on codifying the right to abortion access into the MD Constitution (Gaskill, 5/03/23, baltimoresun.com).


And Gov. Moore had some very strong words of condemnation against banning books and muzzling educators who teach about America’s diversity as well as its controversial past (slavery, racism, the Japanese American internment camps, etc.). As part of the GOP’s culture war obsession, at least 26 states have banned such books and called teaching of such history “woke.” GOP FL Gov. Ron DeSantis and his rubber stamp “Red” legislature have been at the forefront of this issue. Gov. Moore told a class of graduates of Morehouse College, Dr. King’s alma mater, “When politicians ban books and muzzle educators, they say it’s an effort to prevent discomfort (or) guilt—but we know that’s not true. This is not about a fear of making people feel bad. It is about a fear of people understanding their power.” He added, “the alternative was that those who yearn to destroy history will not stop at Black history, but will continue the erasure of the hardship and contributions made by AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islanders), Jewish, Indigenous, and LGBTQ communities. A threat to any history is a threat to all history. I’m talking about everyone in this country who has been a part of the American story and who are watching the stories of those who came before us be wiped away (politico.com, Booker, B., 5/21/23).”


Moore’s remarks, echo the views of Pres. Biden on this GOP/MAGA effort to erase history. Many pundits see these first comments by Gov. Moore on the GOP book banning insanity as an attempt by him to raise his profile, especially during the coming 2024 election campaign. Many people view Gov. Moore as a rising Democratic star, and also see him eventually making a run for the White House (See politico.com, Booker, 5/21/23). In any event, MD Gov. Wes Moore is a strong Democrat our base should support and be proud of.



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