Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger told those gathered Sunday night for a rally to prevent gun violence about how a violent felon was able to easily obtain a gun and use it to kill a young woman as she attempted to hide behind a dumpster near her Gaithersburg home.
Manger said Shawn Henderson—who had been released from prison in 2006 after slashing the throats of two people as a 17-year-old in 1999—was able to purchase a gun from a man in Virginia, despite being legally barred from doing so as a convicted felon. Manger noted that in Virginia there are no secondary sales laws for guns.
Lindsay Harvey, a 25-year-old military DNA analyst in Rockville, was killed by Henderson in April 2008 as she attempted to hide from him. Henderson stole $40 from her and was later convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The story of Harvey’s murder was one of two shooting stories Manger told a crowd of about 150 people who had gathered for the rally at the Old Gray Courthouse in Rockville.
The event Sunday focused on gathering support for what leaders described as simple law changes that could have a wide-ranging impact on preventing gun violence.
The other story Manger shared was about Terrance Green, an 18-year-old who shot Montgomery County police Officer Kyle Olinger in the throat in 2003 during a routine traffic stop, leaving the officer paralyzed.
In that case, Manger said, Green obtained the handgun from a man who police later discovered had been trading guns for drugs in the Washington, D.C. area. Manger said police traced five guns from five crime scenes—in Baltimore, New York City, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and from Green’s case in Montgomery County—back to the same man.
“Common sense and the right legislation would have kept that gun out of the hands of Terrance Green and would have kept my officer out of a wheelchair,” Manger said.
Manger was joined at the rally by other local officials, representatives from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Montgomery County resident Cathy Mitchell, whose son was gunned down in Washington, D.C., in 2011 by a 22-year-old man who had recently been arrested for illegally possessing a handgun, but had obtained another one before his court case could be tried.
“How can we not have gun registration?” Mitchell said. “My son was shot four times that night. People don’t survive one gunshot wound… that’s why we need gun control.”
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who recently signed on to introduce a bill to ban assault weapons and who has been pushing for tougher gun registration laws, said he would continue to work to strengthen gun laws and penalties.
“Too many lives have been silenced as a result of gun violence,” Van Hollen said. “Our duty is to not be silent.”
He said that gun violence is an epidemic that should be treated as seriously as if it were a disease, such as Ebola.
“Too many people want to look the other way,” Van Hollen said. “I can’t even get a vote on universal background checks.”
Robert Disney, the national field director for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, based in Washington, D.C., called on the crowd to support universal Brady background checks for gun purchases. These would require sellers to put individuals’ names into a national criminal background check system to ensure buyers don’t have a criminal record or history of mental illness, violent behavior or drug abuse. According to Brady’s website, only about 60 percent of gun sales include a background check.
“We must keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people,” Disney said.
The hour-long event ended on a somber note, as the crowd huddled together to light small candles and sing along with a children’s chorus performing “This Little Light of Mine.”
"This little light of mine" at rally to end gun violence in Rockville pic.twitter.com/CvFWclSMUo
— Bethesda Beat (@BethesdaBeat) December 20, 2015