Unspun: Kathleen M. Dumais: ‘Very proud of Maryland’


April 5, 2013

Name: Kathleen M. Dumais

Occupation: Delegate - District 15 (Montgomery County)

Age: 55

Hometown: Laurel, Md.

You just won the Superbowl of gun-control bills. What will you do now? Go to Disneyland?

Ah, no, I will just go back to my law practice.

What did you do to prepare for that 11-hour debate?

I think the House in particular deserves a great deal of credit. The speaker appointed the gun safety workgroup and we met at least 15 or 16 times for one and a half, two hours, with stakeholders from both sides of the issues, manufacturers, Maryland dealers, all sorts of groups.

We heard you learned to shoot?

I’d never fired a gun before … we thought this would be good for us to get a handle on. So six of us went, and none of us were buying a gun so we paid $50 plus ammunition and we all went one afternoon. It was an indoor range, just pistols, and it was very educational and I’m very glad I did that. After the two-hour classroom part, I have to admit, even though I knew it was a very safe environment, part of me was like, “I’m not really sure I want to.” There was an awful lot of ‘What if I do something wrong?’ Once I shot it I felt very comfortable. I don’t have a burning desire to go back.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in the debate?

I learned a lot. I have much more of an appreciation for people who, guns are a big part of their lives, they’re sportsmen, it’s their pastime, than I did when I came here in 2003. I struggled with parts of this legislation. The handgun licensing I think is very critical and I think is the strongest and most important part. The assault weapon ban I think is very important, but it is the piece that I struggle with.

But I do think there are two sides to that [assault weapons] issue. There are those that own those guns and use them in a safe manner, if they store them safely — I understand their arguments about what a complete ban does to that.

You got a lot of heat, on the one hand, for expressing doubts about the assault weapons ban. But after you spent Wednesday pushing the gun bill through the house, you can’t have many fans in the gun-rights crowd, either. Who are your fans?

I was for a very brief period of time, “a bright light” [to opponents of the gun bill]. However, last night a man came by and told me that he was going to contact everyone that had given money to my last campaign and tell them not to support me because I worked on and voted for this bill. I don’t know who my fans are. I came here to make a difference and hopefully my constituents will recognize that.

So what made up your mind?

To be honest, despite the voices against the ban, I do listen to my constituents and the majority of them want these banned. If you look at the local polling, the national polling, I think that’s where the country is at this time ... and we may have to evolve. One of the things I think we might consider in the future is about competitive shooting … let some of this dust settle, come back next January.

You spoke for 11 hours on the House floor Wednesday. Have you ever had to do that before?

Oh yes, when I’m not here, I practice family law, divorce and custody. It’s not unusual to be in a long trial, standing on my feet, handling questions.

What did you do to unwind after 11 hours on the floor?

Well, unfortunately, the chairman [Del. Joseph F. Vallario] and I came back here with staff counsel to prepare a voting list … because there doesn’t seem to be anything that’s not controversial on this committee, we went and voted on the Senate bill for undocumented immigrants’ drivers licences, so that will be the next hot topic.

What are your last words on the gun bill?

Very proud of Maryland for being in the forefront, for taking a stand, for doing what we can to reduce gun violence. Despite the naysayers, I think it will work.

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