U.S. Senator Ben Cardin

Letters From Ben

June 22, 2024

A Solemn Anniversary

Dear Fellow Marylanders,

“There is nothing more terrifying than hearing multiple people get shot while you’re under your desk and then hear the gunman reload.”

Outside the United States, the terror of this scenario primarily exists for those in the throngs of war. Within our country’s borders, it can be far too common. It can happen at work, at school, in the grocery store, at a movie theater or even a concert. On June 28, 2018, journalists from the Capital Gazette met the reality of these haunting words when a gunman walked into their Annapolis newsroom, opened fire and killed five people – Gerald FischmanRob HiaasenJohn McNamaraRebecca Smith and Wendi Winters

This devastating event rocked our community. It was another heart-breaking mass shooting. It was a targeted attack on a free press on American soil, and it happened within the confines of our own state. June 28th is officially recognized as “Freedom of the Press Day” in Maryland to remember the lives lost during this tragic event. I was also pleased to sponsor federal legislation that was signed into law in 2020 to create a memorial on the National Mall for fallen journalists.

As we approach this solemn anniversary, it’s a good a time to reflect on the state of gun violence in America.

The Giffords Law Center states that America has the weakest gun laws and the most guns per capita of any comparable nation. Still, just weeks before the anniversary of the Gazette shooting, the Supreme Court delivered a crippling blow to gun safety in America.

In Garland v. Cargill, the Supreme Court overturned the bipartisan ban on bump stocks (enacted during the Trump Administration), which essentially converts a semi-automatic rifle into a machine gun. This device has been used in a number of recent mass shootings to kill scores of innocent people, including in the most deadly mass shooting in modern history. Just a year prior to the Gazette shooting, a gunman used bump stocks to unleash rounds of bullets into a crowd of Las Vegas festival goers. His 10-minute rampage killed 59 people and injured over 500.

These types of weapons of war have no legitimate civil use. As Justice Sotomayor said in her dissent, the decision to overturn the bump stock ban will have “deadly consequences.” She continued that the majority’s reason “is inconsistent with the ordinary meaning of the statutory text and unsupported by context or purpose.”

If a modified rifle had been used during the Gazette shooting, more lives certainly would have been lost in Annapolis. The decision to ban bump stocks is an affront to victims of mass shootings and their families.

America is moving in the wrong direction on gun safety. Congress must act.

I’m committed to working with my colleagues in Congress to pass legislation to overturn this disturbing Court decision and give the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives the authority to ban bump stocks. Additionally, I’m continuing to push to ban assault weapons, ban large capacity ammunition magazines and require background checks for all gun sales. The Senate should also redouble its efforts to confirm President Biden’s judicial nominations with qualified and diverse nominees who are devoted to the rule of law and upholding the Constitution. 

America is the leader of the free world, but we’re far behind our peers on the world stage when it comes to gun safety. We can and we must do more to prevent mass shootings. No law is perfect, but commonsense gun measures can reduce the incidences of mass shootings and make it harder for someone to obtain a gun who should never have one. 

It’s time to recognize that the guns are the problem and take steps now to implement stronger gun safety measures. We all have a responsibility to address this desperate situation so none of us have to continue to live in fear of gun violence, and the lives of Gerald, Rob, John, Rebecca, Wendi and the many other victims of mass shootings weren’t lost in vain.  

Thank you for your time. Please feel free to reply to this email with your thoughts on this or any other issue. I appreciate your feedback and interest.

In solidarity,

Ben Cardin