April 10, 2013 at 12:31 PM ET
A pro-gun speech by a 15-year-old Maryland girl in front of state legislators has struck a chord with the public, racking up millions of views on YouTube.
Speaking in front of the Maryland State Legislature in March, Sarah Merkle argued that stricter gun control laws are not the answer to gun violence. As of Wednesday, the video of her speech has been viewed more than 2.5 million times. The high school sophomore said she has been shooting since she was 7 years old and is part of the Maryland Rifle Club and Maryland State Rifle and Pistol Association team.
“Ever since I first learned how to shoot, the issue with gun violence around the nation became clear — guns are not the problem, people are,’’ Merkle said in her speech. “Purging our society of violence and murder cannot be done by gun control legislation.’’
Merkle, who said her favorite gun is the Bushmaster, believes that the reforms will restrict the rights of Americans.
“By signing this legislation, you are not signing away gun violence but instead liberating American citizens of our constitutional rights,’’ Merkle said. “You are not eliminating guns from society but eliminating our ability to protect our lives, liberty and pursuits of happiness."
Despite Merkle’s three-minute plea, Maryland legislators approved a host of restrictions that await the signature of Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley to become law. The new laws would require prospective gun buyers to be licensed and submit to fingerprinting. They also would ban the sale of 45 semi-automatic weapons including the AR-15, a gun Merkle said she uses in her rifle club.
Last week, Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy signed a bill that bans the sale of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, requires background checks for almost all private gun sales and bans a host of new assault weapon models.
At the federal level, Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., announced an agreement on Wednesday paving the way for Senate approval to expand background checks to include gun shows and online sales.
In her speech, Merkle cited an incident in China in which a man stabbed 23 children and an elderly woman on the same day as the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., as evidence that guns are not the problem in mass violence.
“Guns are not needed for mass murder, and robbing American citizens over rights to own them won’t solve anything,’’ she said.
Merkle also argued that the new laws would hinder her own future. She said she has received scholarship offers from various universities to join their shooting teams.
“Achieving stricter gun control laws would obliterate any opportunity I could have had to attend a decent college on a shooting scholarship," she said.
She cited statistics showing people are twice as likely to be killed in Chicago as in the war in Afghanistan, and the majority of the shooting deaths in Chicago are from handguns, not high-capacity rifles. Merkle also argued that the majority of shootings occur in low-income areas and that by raising the cost of gun ownership with higher licensing and registration fees, it would deny lower-income individuals the opportunity to defend themselves by owning a gun.
“The entire foundation of the United States was formed on the principle that the government, our government, is a government of the people, for the people, by the people, and taking away the people’s right to bear arms is taking away the people’s power in the government,’’ she said.