By Jacob Porter
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen assured residents of a Towson retirement community on Monday that “I am strongly opposed to the idea of arming teachers” and cited the need for tighter gun control across the nation.
The Maryland Democrat pointed to the most recent mass shootings in the country.
“We have seen as a country, we’ve witnessed these awful tragedies at schools in terms of mass shootings,” Van Hollen told residents at Edenwald Retirement Community, located only minutes from Baltimore City and a few miles from the shooting site at Great Mills High School.
Van Hollen cited the need for a more comprehensive background checking system to help keep guns out of the hands of criminals and dangerous people. He said the system must eliminate any loopholes that exist in the current process. In terms of schools, Van Hollen stated the need for stronger security.
“I am strongly opposed to the idea of arming teachers with a lot of guns in the classroom,” Van Hollen said. “I haven’t talked to a teacher in the state of Maryland who thinks that is a good idea.”
Recently, Maryland experienced a shooting at Great Mills High School that resulted in the death of one student, as well as the shooter. This tragedy came off the heels of a shooting in Parkland, Florida, which prompted a march of high school students on the nation’s capital.
Van Hollen, who serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee, opened his discussion by talking about the federal budget. The Fiscal year 2018 Omnibus Appropriations Bill provides full funding for the Chesapeake Bay at $73 million, an amount that keeps the Chesapeake Bay Liaison Office in Annapolis. The Gateways and Trails Program also are funded in the budget.
“Budget issues are front and center,” Van Hollen said. “I will say, and this is putting it diplomatically, but very disappointed in the budgets we’ve seen coming down from the administration.”
Van Hollen pointed to the importance of the Chesapeake Bay funding, stressing its importance to the Environmental Protection Agency funding. The Chesapeake Bay serves as a drainage basin for parts of five states, and Washington D.C., he said.
“The Chesapeake Bay has the largest ratio of land mass to water body,” Van Hollen said. “You’ve got people in parts of New York City where when the rain water goes into the pipes, it ends up in the Chesapeake Bay.”
Van Hollen stressed the importance of maintaining the current EPA program that sustains the health of the Chesapeake Bay.
On another issue, Van Hollen applauded the recent meeting of the leaders of both North and South Korea at the demilitarized zone to discuss an official end to the Korean War. This marked the first time in history that a North Korean leader was in its southern neighbor.
“The fact that we are having these talks right now between the North Korean leaders and the South Korean leaders, this a good thing to have these talks to try and deescalate things,” said Van Hollen, emphasizing that this particular situation is not a victory, merely a step in a better direction.
Van Hollen also voiced his support for the Iran Nuclear Agreement. He acknowledged that the agreement is far from perfect, but he said that Iran has been compliant with the agreement currently in place.
“My view is that the Iran Nuclear Agreement is the best approach that we have toward preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon,” he said.
Thekla Rice, an Edenwald resident who lived in Germany during World War II and at the height of Nazi persecution, said she enjoyed Van Hollen’s speech, but voiced her displeasure with the Trump administration.
“I thought it was very interesting,” Rice said. “My times was dictator, you live under a dictator, and you don’t have any say. [Now] We have a say and I don’t trust Trump.”
Catherine Allen, a resident at Edenwald for three years, said she also enjoyed Van Hollen’s speech.
“I thought he was very candid with us,” Allen said. “I did not know much about him, but the human side of him came through, which I found very interesting.”