In Dante’s Inferno, the gates of Hell are inscribed with the Latin phrase, “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate.” Translated into English, the iconic phrase reads, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” Today, however, this phrase would be quite apt on all signs announcing the crossover into the state of Maryland, with one little tweak: “Abandon all hope, gun owners who enter here.”
One year ago last week, Florida-resident John Filippidis and his family were traveling through Maryland when his vehicle was pulled over by a Maryland Transportation Authority police officer. Filippidis, a concealed carry permit holder in his home state, was unsure of the reason for the stop, but as he quickly discovered, little about what would happen next had to do with his driving. According to Filippidis, as reported by the Tampa Tribune, the MDTA officer tailed his vehicle for 10 minutes before eventually signaling for him to pull over. After taking his license and registration for a check, the officer returned with demands that Filippidis exit the vehicle, assume the position, and tell him where his firearm was located. Meanwhile, his family was separated in the back of police cruisers while officers ransacked his car looking for his personal firearm that he had thought ahead of time to leave at home, in case of this very situation.
An internal review of the incident by the MDTA determined the stop to have followed protocol, and the search of Filippidis’ car to be “reasonable” based on nothing more than the “conflicting” statements made by his shaken wife about the location of the gun, as well as the officer’s belief that he smelled the odor of marijuana in the car. Not surprisingly, the exhaustive search of the vehicle turned-up neither firearm, nor marijuana or related paraphernalia. Instead, Filippidis was let go, after hours of harassment, with merely a warning for speeding.
As the Washington Times notes in its recent coverage of this incident, there are a growing number of stories from Maryland in which out-of-state concealed carry permit holders have been subjected to the same harassment as Filippidis; raising suspicion that the state with a long-standing reputation for being hostile to gun rights, is using the Second Amendment as a basis to harass otherwise law-abiding citizens for purposes that have little, if anything, to do with actual law enforcement. Rather, this outrageous behavior is yet another example of police departments motivated by a need for greater control, and more power to justify their existence.
As I noted last month about the death of Eric Garner, government at all levels has become so big and so costly, that revenues are never deemed sufficient to meet those perceived “needs.” This is a major reason why police departments such as the MDTA are driven to find ever more creative – and liberty-stifling – ways to justify their existence; such as outlawing the selling of a cigarette by one person to another, or arresting people for traveling with a legally owned firearm that, when crossing the border, suddenly did not adhere to Maryland’s anti-firearm policy.
The proliferation of police departments we see in recent years -- not only every geographic entity has to have one, but every state school and many state government departments and transportation authorities -- increases this pressure to prove they are “real” cops and thus enlarge their budgets; and what better scalps to tack on the wall in Maryland than those of gun owners.
Since the 2008 landmark Supreme Court decision in Heller v. District of Columbia, which for the first time in modern case law defined the Second Amendment as an individual right, opponents of constitutional gun rights have faced a number of setbacks in courts and local legislatures. To compensate for these setbacks, gun-grabbers have sought to push their agendas through means such as legislative chicanery or outright deception in public relations campaigns.
Regulations and state-sanctioned intimidation to curb speech rights are said to have a “chilling effect” on speech rights. What we appear to be witnessing in Maryland, and no doubt in other anti-gun states across the nation, is a deliberate attempt to “chill” Second Amendment rights as well; by making the legal exercise of one’s natural right to keep and bear arms so confusing and legally treacherous that many citizens choose not to do so. Yet, rather than surrender this precious right to the bullies in government who twist and contort their authority in pursuit of a political agenda, we should take the fight to the courts and the voting booth. At the very least, out-of-state travelers can refuse to give Maryland revenue by avoiding the state altogether.