Gun advocates criticize task force for leaving them out

FILE - In this June 28, 2018 file photo, police secure the scene of a shooting at the building housing The Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Md. A county task force in Maryland that is studying ways to reduce gun violence in the wake of the 2018 killing of five employees at the local newspaper is scheduled to hear public comment for the first time. The Anne Arundel County Gun Violence Prevention Task Force is meeting Thursday evening, Aug. 15, 2019, in Annapolis, Md. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Gun rights advocates in Maryland expressed frustration at being left off of a county task force that is studying ways to reduce gun violence during a meeting Thursday night, as supporters of stronger gun-control measures thanked members for their work.

The Anne Arundel County Gun Violence Prevention Task Force was created in the wake of the 2018 killing of five employees at a local newspaper.

The group heard public testimony for the first time — a week after a fake Facebook page ridiculing task force members prompted the county's chief executive to denounce "bullying or intimidation by extremists."

The panel set aside time at the end of its meeting Thursday night for up to eight people to address the task force. Only six signed up to speak.

Daryl Hodge said responsible gun owners can contribute to the panel's work.

"Ladies and gentlemen, gun owners of Maryland, gun owners of Anne Arundel county want to assist you," Hodge, of Arnold, Maryland, said. "People who are committed to lawful gun ownership, lawful gun usage, have been excluded from this committee, and I think that that is wrong."

Angela Wright, a member of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, thanked the task force for its work.

"I just want to thank the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force for addressing gun violence prevention, working together in Anne Arundel County and just working to make the community safer," Wright said.

The meeting comes days after Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman issued a statement in response to a fake Facebook page for the task force in which task force members were ridiculed. The page was recently taken down.

Pittman created the task force in April. Less than a year earlier, five people were killed in a mass shooting at the local newspaper, the Capital Gazette.

The task force has been researching gun violence and suicide involving guns. It is charged with making recommendations about how to reduce gun violence in the county. It is scheduled to submit a report of recommendations in December.

The task force is planning to hold a public hearing that will be entirely for public comment before the report is released. The task force also is recommending another public hearing to be held after the report is released to give the community a chance to provide input on the recommendations.

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