Testimony in Support of SB Bills 266, 281 and 540
Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee
February 6, 2013

As a leader in the faith community and Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry’s priority to prevent gun violence, I submit my testimony in faithful support of SB 281, Firearms Safety Act of 2013.  We also support SB 266, Regulated Firearms - Database - Applications for Dealer's License - Record Keeping and Reporting Requirements and SB 540, Public Safety - Regulated Firearms - Reporting Lost or Stolen.

SB 281 mirrors the best of similar legislation in states like New York and New Jersey, where fingerprint licensing for the purchase of handguns is a contributing factor to lower rates of handgun deaths relative to Maryland.  Ten rounds of ammunition for a clip is more than adequate for the average sportsman and sportswoman to pursue their much-loved pastime.     From a law and order perspective, this legislation gives Maryland state police personnel the authority they need to regulate firearms dealers and provide the kind of state-level background checks that provide another layer of safety for our citizens.

Far from being radical, these measures are responsible steps in the right direction that stand well within the purview of your responsibilities as elected legislators.  This is what we’ve elected you to do – to weigh the complex issues, find common sense solutions and provide a legislative framework for the work that all of us as citizens must engage in.  

That work - the work that faith leaders and community-builders can commit to, is a steady process of changing the culture of violence in which our society is so tragically mired.  We are not one another’s enemies and our streets need not be war zones.  We are a community, entwined in responsibility and mutual care, called to uplift our faith in one another rather than our fear.   

If there is one thing I have learned in providing pastoral care to members of my congregation, it is the fact that fear stands in the way of our spiritual and societal growth.  Living in fear, with a constant state of high alert, sets us up to view one another either as enemies or as fellow combatants, undercutting our primary responsibility to provide for the safety and well-being of all.

Doing justice comes hand in hand with loving mercy.  The one cannot be separated from the other, and the moment that a military-style weapon is wielded by a civilian separated from the training and support of military service, absolutely everything hangs in the balance of an often-untrained split-second decision about what constitutes justice on the streets of our cities.  Where in that moment is there room for mercy, for faithfulness, for a gentleness that overcomes fear?          

Let’s allow the officers of the law to do their jobs.  Let’s allow faith to be more operative in our lives than fear.  Let’s allow this legislation to do part of the work while we, the citizens, commit to doing the rest.

Respectfully Submitted, the Rev. Nancy McDonald Ladd

Senior Minister, River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Bethesda, MD