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DeMarco steps aside at anti-gun violence group

The leader of an organization that advocated for tougher gun laws in Maryland said Monday he is taking a step back from lobbying in Annapolis and turning over the group he helped establish.

Vincent “Vinny” DeMarco said he is leaving as president of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence to focus on efforts to coordinate health care in faith-based communities.

“I’m ready to move on,” DeMarco said.

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Vincent “Vinny” DeMarco will remain head of the board of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, a position he has held concurrently with the position of president of the group for the past four years. (Maximilian Franz / The Daily Record)

Jen Pauliukonis and Liz Banach, will take over daily leadership of the organization serving respectively as president and executive director. Both were involved in lobbying efforts against Richard Jurgena, who was appointed to the state Handgun Permit Review Board, and for a number of gun violence prevention bills.

DeMarco will remain head of the organization’s board, a position he has held concurrently with the position of president of the group for the past four years.

Group founded in 2013

DeMarco, who turns 59 in May, founded the group in 2013 as part of an effort to push for stricter gun laws in the state including fingerprint background checks for gun purchases within the state.

The law continues to be the subject of litigation. An appeal hearing before the full 4th Circuit is scheduled for May 11 at 9 a.m. at the Lewis F. Powell Jr. United States Courthouse in Richmond, Va.

DeMarco dates his interest in firearms issues to 1968 and the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.

Two decades later, he was part of an effort that helped pass the state’s so-called Saturday night special law and the effort to turn back a referendum challenge by the National Rifle Association. It was the first time the powerful national group had been defeated in a state referendum.

DeMarco has been a long-time presence in Annapolis decade lobbying on issues related to firearms, increasing the taxes on alcohol and tobacco and on various health care issues including the state health insurance exchange.

DeMarco laughed upon being reminded that former Gov. Martin J. O’Malley once referred to DeMarco as “Spinny Vinny.”

“I guess he thought I had a good relationship with the Fourth Estate,” DeMarco said.

No new bills passed

He leaves at the end of a legislative session in which no new gun violence prevention bills were passed including laws related to domestic violence cases and bills that would prevent people on the federal terrorist watch list from obtaining guns as well as a bill making it illegal to possess a firearm on a college campus in Maryland — both of which were part of a House and Senate leadership package.

“It can sometimes take more than one year to get a bill passed in Annapolis,” DeMarco said.

But those who opposed DeMarco’s efforts question the timing, saying that his departure coincides with a recognition that there is little left to do in Maryland as it pertains to gun control laws.

“We’re not exactly a hotbed of pro-Second Amendment laws,” said former State Sen. Nancy Jacobs, a Republican who was a member of the Senate Judicial Proceeding Committee when DeMarco and his group lobbied in favor of the stricter gun laws. “I think there’s a good possibility that he’s gotten done what he’s going to get done so why beat your head against the wall?”

This year, DeMarco said the group can claim victory for defeating the confirmation of Richard Jurgena, who was appointed to the state Handgun Permit Review Board earlier this month. Jurgena raised concerns because of posts on social media in which he highlighted his belief that the state’s concealed carry law is unconstitutional.

“I think that the Senate sent a clear message about having someone on the board who disagrees with the law,” DeMarco said.