St. Mary’s Co. students meet with Md. governor before gun violence rally

WASHINGTON — Days before their planned rally on gun violence, students from Great Mills High School got a meeting with Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.

Jaxon O’Mara, a rising senior at the St. Mary’s County high school, said she had been trying to get a meeting with the governor ever since that March day when her classmate, 16-year-old Jaelynn Willey, was shot and killed at the school.

“We wanted to talk about school safety and firearm safety,” O’Mara said.

She also wanted to quiz the governor about the A- rating he was given by the National Rifle Association in 2014.

“I wanted to speak with him and know that he’s on our side moving forward,” O’Mara said.

She and a group of Great Mills High students want to see state gun laws regarding access to guns by minors tightened.

O’Mara, who said she had initially been referred to the Maryland Center for School Safety, had expressed frustration with how long it took to get a meeting with Hogan. But, after the Thursday meeting with Hogan, she was pleasantly surprised.

“He told us he is not looking for another NRA endorsement, nor is he looking for money from them,” O’Mara said. Hogan added that if he were to get money from the NRA, she said, “He would not want to accept it.”

The student group has several legislative goals, including adding provisions to laws that would hold adults responsible when a minor between the ages of 16 and 18 gains access to a firearm from a home.

O’Mara has also been working to organize Saturday’s rally in Annapolis, which she said is aimed at making sure that legislative solutions are sought to address student concerns about school safety and gun violence.

“We hope to get our message out and inspire people to be gun-conscious voters,” O’Mara said.

She added that the student group is not anti-gun. “I do not want your guns,” she said. “I just want you to be safe with your guns.”

O’Mara said the concern is how easy it can be for children and teenagers to get their hands on guns. One way to prevent that, she said, is to focus on responsible gun ownership. “Guns need to be locked up,” she said.

When asked about whether her meeting with classmates will influence how she votes in the fall, O’Mara said, “I will be voting in November, but I’m not sure who I will be voting for.”

She added, “I do feel that Governor Hogan is trying to do what he can to try to make Maryland safer.”

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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