To prevent another Capital Gazette tragedy, states must take action

To prevent another Capital Gazette tragedy, states must take action
© Getty Images

This time the mass shooting happened in Annapolis, Maryland. Having lived there with my family for eight years as governor, I can tell you Annapolis is a chocolate box of a town — everybody knows everybody and neighbors live and work very close to one another. 

One of those killed in the Capital Gazette massacre was reporter Wendi Winter. My wife, Katie, and I knew her. Wendi enjoyed writing stories about public events at Government House — the official residence of Maryland governors. I liked Wendi. She thought my wife was cool and had good taste (ahem…). So, of course, that made me think Wendi was cool, too.

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Occasionally, she took on the lighter assignments at Government House, such as “Trick Or Treat” at the governor’s door, or the special December nights when we’d open up Governor’s House to the public, decorations sparkling through the halls. It seemed like half of Annapolis would file through for a handshake, a Christmas song, and a cookie. Wendi captured it all, making our town feel like we were more like family than neighbors by virtue of geographical circumstance. 



That final Christmas for us in Government House was the last time we saw Wendi. Until her face appeared on the national news as one of five victims of a brutal attack by a man with a shotgun at her newspaper office.

Like most Americans, I was horrified yet somehow utterly unsurprised. We have an epidemic of white male depression, rage and suicides in our nation. When those feelings are unleashed, sometimes they turn mass homicidal.

Still, I couldn’t help thinking about that building, which I’d been to many times, all walls of glass, allowing those who walked by a peek into its working newsroom—an inviting gesture to the community it served, turned deadly.

It could have been worse: Maryland bans combat assault weapons, so this shooter had to stop to reload. It could have been worse: the police responded quickly and rushed the building. We banned assault weapons because Marylanders expressed the political will to do something after the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut in 2012. Despite the efforts of the gun lobby and the NRA, we banned assault rifles, required training to operate a gun, required registration, and banned the sale of ammunition clips with more than 10 rounds. 

These reforms may be what prevented this tragedy from becoming even more deadly. Unfortunately, we will never know. However, we do know the lack of reforms like these on the federal level and in other states have led to the recent tragedies in Parkland, Florida and Santa Fe, Texas as well as the horrific massacre in Las Vegas in 2017.

What we do know is that we are the only developed nation on the planet with this level of suicides and this number of mass shootings. Rational and caring people demand better. Demand to know what more could have been and what should be done.

All elected officials should be pursuing common-sense gun control policies that respect the second amendment, but also drive down the numbers of murders and suicides like the one that took Wendi away from our Annapolis community.

As Americans we must hold our officials accountable and ensure dangerous weapons stop falling into hands of people interested in doing harm to their selves and others.

We also cannot wait for our federal government to take action. Unfortunately, we know many Republicans are in the pockets of the NRA or ideologically aligned with the gun lobby including the Trump administration. We must take this fight to the local and state level.

Sadly, in 2013, I knew I couldn’t wait for Congress to pass reforms and that’s why we passed our own in Maryland. Clearly, our efforts in 2013 did not stop what happened June 28. While I am proud of the work we did, we must continue to demand better. Every missed opportunity for reform leaves the window open to more heartbreak and loss.

Our current leadership hasn’t yet seemed to understand the lessons of Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, Stoneman Douglas, Santa Fe, and now, the Capital Gazette. We must do better. We must carry this issue to heart when we go to ballot box in November and in 2020. We owe it to Wendi and all of the other senseless lives lost to gun violence.

Martin O’Malley (D) served as the 61st governor of Maryland from 2007 to 2015.