Apply today for the 2014 Urban Journalism Workshop!

Tactics for becoming accomplished newspaper, broadcast and multimedia journalists will be taught by award-winning journalists from The Washington Post, the Associated Press, National Public Radio and other media companies during the 2014 Urban Journalism Workshop (UJW) series. Trainers also give high school students an inside look at careers in journalism. The28th annual workshop series, offered by The Washington Post Young Journalists Development Program (YJDP) and the Washington Association of Black Journalists (WABJ), takes place over eight consecutive Saturdays starting March 1 – April 26, 2014 from 9:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. at various sites across the Washington area.

Who can participate?
The workshop series is FREE and open to high school students across the Washington area, which includes Montgomery County, Prince George’s County and Southern Maryland, Washington, D. C., and Northern Virginia. There is no fee to apply. Students should contact their journalism advisor or media instructor for details.

And the winners are…
Three scholarship awards will be presented to seniors who excel during the workshop and demonstrate strong research, reporting and writing ability. Scholarships will be based on an essay, stories produced in the workshop and participation in all eight sessions.

How do I apply?

To download an application and learn more about the Urban Journalism Workshop, click on the link to the right. UJWapp2014

Applications must be postmarked or delivered by Monday, January 13, 2014.

Contacts:
Dakarai I. Aarons, UJW Coordinator
901-491-7511 or wabj.ujw@gmail.com

Jaye P. Linnen, YJDP Coordinator
202-334-4917 or yjdp@washpost.com

Sponsored by The Washington Association of Black Journalists and The Washington Post.

Transgender Student Rights In Focus

By Austin Chavez
UJW Staff Writer

For many adolescents in the transgender community, bullying has become a major concern. A 2012 national study conducted by the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) reported that almost nine out of ten (89 percent) of transgender adolescents have faced some form of harassment in school.

Almost half (about 46 percent) miss at least a day of school each month because they fear bullying and harassment. The study also concluded that transgender individuals have an increased risk of abusing alcohol and other drugs.

“It definitely has to be a collaborative effort,” said Bryce Celotto, Public Policy Assistant at GLSEN. “Students should reach out to teachers, and they, in turn, should reach out to the administrators.”

Though Celotto calls the transgender movement right now as “momentous,” he acknowledges that transgender adolescents still face a great deal of hardships.

And the hardships he knows all too well. Born as Bryanna, Celotto now goes by Bryce and identifies as a transgender man.

Pamela Brumfield believes high school should be a little less about the labels and more about shaping the individual. “We just need to see everyone for who they are–as people,” she said.

Brumfield, 42, of Alexandria, Virginia is the newest principal at Edison High School located in Fairfax County. She believes every pupil who goes to public school has the right and belongs to be there.

“Students are people,” she said. “I don’t want to see any adult talking down, belittling, or embarrassing a student.”

Celotto, a 21-year-old District resident, says that it helped a lot when teachers began addressing his identity and rights. “I felt respected,” he said. He hopes that his work in GLSEN would help provide transgender students across the country with protection from discrimination and bullying.

The District of Columbia and Maryland both have statewide laws that protect transgender students from discrimination and harassment, according to the American Civil Liberties Union Virginia has no state-wide laws that provide such protections.

Asked why might this be the case, Jasmine Purcell, 16, of Lorton, Virginia believes it all of has to do with the society and the time.

“People are afraid of change,” she said.

Purcell supports allowing transgendered individuals to participate in gender-related activities that match their gender identity. She believes this right should be expanded not only to schools, but in other public places.

Others, such as Marisol Chavez, aren’t so certain.

“I just don’t think that the thoughts of transgendered people are their own,” she says, regarding gender identity. “Parents are getting lazy nowadays, and today’s youth receives so much influence from the world.”

The 16 year-old Alexandria resident also believes that society is feeding into the idea of transgendered identity.

Nonetheless, both parties agree that this is an issue that Virginia should pay attention to. Chavez believes parents should keep a closer eye on what influences the youth.

As for Purcell?

“People need to keep up with the times,” she said.

Cherry blossoms on parade

By Sarah Metzel
UJW Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The vivid pink blossoms that have appeared on trees in Washington mark the start of a new season. People from all over the nation gathered along Constitution Avenue on Sunday, April 13, to watch the Cherry Blossom Festival Parade as it moved from 7th to 17th streets.

The springtime festival takes place every year to celebrate the blooming cherry blossom trees in the nation’s capital. The trees were a gift to the United States from Japan in the early 1900s as a symbol of friendship between the two nations.

“The cherry blossoms are a good way to people together to celebrate life,” Cassandra Guichard said. “It’s the dawn of a new season and the beginning of spring.”

Guichard, who is visiting relatives in Washington with her two young sons, hails from Atlanta, Ga. Her boys’ are enjoying an educational spring break, with visits to the Air and Space museum, Natural History museum, and various historic monuments.

“Right now, the weather is beautiful,” Guichard said. “But next time, can you do something about the rain?” She arrived earlier in the week.

Pedicab driver Alex Fry earns his money by providing rides to people in a carriage propelled by his cycling. He has lived in the DC area his entire life, having grown up in Springfield, Va.

“So far, the weather’s been really nice. I only work when there’s nice weather,” Fry said. “For many of the businesses, the weather and cherry blossoms affect their business because the longer they are in bloom, the more money they can make.”

The festival has run from March 20 – April 14 this year. Over the span of four weeks, the DC area has experienced a range of weather conditions(going from general to specific). Many local residents have noticed the late advent of spring.

“A lot of people were disappointed when they planned their trips,” said Fry. “They came too early, and the blossoms came out later than usual.”

The foliage of these trees increases tourism to Washington. While the crowd easily gets caught up with the performances on the street, some spectators are interested in the surrounding nature.

Elizabeth Ramirez, a tree enthusiast, visited the festival from New York City for the first time this year.

“I’m a big fan of trees,” said Ramirez. “I like their colors and everything about them. The cherry blossoms make the festival.”

Ramirez is hoping to spend the rest of her visit exploring the area and seeing the different types of trees.

“Being from New York City, where you don’t have a lot of trees, it’s feels good to get away, relax, and enjoy culture.” said Ramirez.

Smartphones become a Parade must-have

By Anthony Joseph
UJW Staff Writer

Sheridan Radcliffe had worried that a foot surgery would prevent her from attending this year’s National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade. But armed with only a smartphone, Radcliffe was able to navigate the festival using mapping applications to reduce redundant movements — she was able to walk less and experience more.

“I used the maps app on my phone to plan out my route and make it easier to navigate through the festival,” Radcliffe, 56, of Main said during her trip to D.C. to see the festival for the first time.

During this year’s festival, smartphones became the must-have accessory for attendees navigating their way through crowded streets, taking photos and videos, and finding friends or family in the crowd.

“I’m attached to my phone. I use it for pictures and sharing,” said Tracy Daves, 42, of Texas as she snapped photos of the parade along with her boyfriend. “I love would be lost [without my smartphone].”

Attendees said that smart phones—now more than ever—helped them to plan their trips. Others were able to coordinate via text message with friends or family, get step-by-step directions to help them navigate the busy streets. Some parade goers even said that they were able to pay for parking with their phones.

Chandra Hampton, 35, a Louisiana native now living in D.C., peeked over the shoulders of family members while capturing the parade on her Android device.

Hampton was posting the pictures to social media sites like Facebook and Instagram for her friends to see. “Since I’m not from [D.C.], it’s a way for people to see what’s going on in my life,” she said.

Coordination and communication were used on smartphones and helped 52 year-old Denis Morgan. Using his iPhone, Morgan messaged his son to find the perfect location to take his photo.

His son, Josh Morgan, a wide receiver for the Washington Redskins, and is the parade’s Grand Marshal. Denis said first brought Josh to the parade when he was 10-years old. Back then, he said, Denis Morgan used a film camera to capture video, now he uses the HD camera on his iPhone.

“Technology is awesome,” Denis Morgan he said while he was texting his son for his location.

Performers Bring Spark to Parade

By Abby Duker
UJW Staff Writer

WASHINGTON–It took Toodles the Clown 45 minutes to put on makeup, and then came the petticoat, apron, bloomers and brightly-colored wig she picked out the night before.

To become Toodles, Diane Jones woke up at six on the morning of the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade. She and the rest of the Kapitol Klowns went out in front of a diverse crowd of thousands with balloons, horns and a large banner displaying their logo.

“We do lots of parades in the DC area, but this one is exciting because everyone seems to have a great, positive energy,” Jones said. “People seem to enjoy seeing the clowns, and it kept us moving through the parade. [But] we were behind the Mustangs, so we had to keep lagging back so we didn’t asphyxiate!”

Performers from more than 100 different groups marched about one mile through the heart of Northwest DC, entertaining parade-goers both new and old. Though these entertainers all performed in the parade, their individual experiences were unique and varied.

Some local organizations and groups came via Metro. Others, like colorguard member Reagan Vail, crossed state lines.

“We took a charter bus up here on Thursday with our whole band and our stuff,” said Vail, from the Tuscaloosa County High School band in Alabama. “I was excited but I slept most of the ride up here.”

Some performed months in advance, waking up at the crack of dawn to ensure that everything went as planned. For University of Maryland’s Gymkana, that meant making extra preparations for equipment so they could do “high speed flips and tricks for the crowd,” gymnast Alex Mateik said.

“Most of us woke up around 4:30 so that we could be at our gym at 6 am, load up a truck, come [here], unload a truck, while running and place our equipment down so we could perform,” Mateik said. “As soon as we were finished, we folded the equipment back up and placed it back in the moving truck. Then we did it all again.”

Gymkana practiced for months, but others coordinated their routines in a shorter amount of time. R&B Singer Mya met some of her dancers about two weeks ago.

“The four girls that you see, this is their first job with me,” Mya said. “But these [two other male performers] have been with me for five years. And everyone’s from DC.”

Tycho drummer Cassandra Chin came with the Chin Hama Culture Center which specializes in Okinawan and Japanese cultural awareness. This was her fifth year.

“We have to make all the costumes from scratch,” Chin said. “We like for our group to show people the culture in every way we can.”

When the festival had come to a close, it was back to business as usual for the performers.
“We’re going to head home,” Mateik said. “It’s a Saturday and we all have other things to do.”

Fun, Floats and Food Mark Cherry Blossom Parade

By Sean Burke
UJW Staff Writer

WASHINGTON – Maurice Minor of Newport, Conn., stood along Constitution Avenue with his jaw dropped wide open.img_0005_0005

Minor, 14, was in awe of the Grammy-winning singer Mya, who took to the stage April 13 during the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade. Minor, standing on a planter next to his two younger siblings, was one of several first-timers in downtown D.C.

The parade was one of the biggest events of the city’s festival, which celebrates the gifting 101 years ago of 3,000 cherry trees by Japan to the United States. The two-hour parade featured gigantic floats, colorful balloons and high school marching bands from across the country.

An estimated 1.5 million people participated in the festival activities, according to Danielle Piacente, a communications manager for the Cherry Blossom Festival.

A portion of the crowd cheered on and waved at a carriage ridden by Washington Redskins wide receiver Josh Morgan, who was the parade’s grand marshal. Morgan acknowledged the attendees with a smile and a wave.img_0011_0011

Three Cherry Blossom Princesses mingled with three enthusiastic little girls, placing their crowns on the girls’ heads.

“We all loved the idea of riding on floats and waving at everyone,” said Ms. Maryland 2013 Sarah Christian while standing beside Miss Teen Capitol City 2013 Dionne Wright, 16, and Miss Teen Maryland 2013 Morgan Lash, 19, a sophomore at the University of Maryland.

Kalise Goff, 7, cheered on her 17-year-old sister, Jade, when she passed by on a princess float.

Kalise’s other sister, Mariah, 8, jumped up and down for joy on a planter when one of her favorite cartoon characters went by on a float.

“Scooby Doo! I love Scooby Doo!” Mariah said.

Food and T-shirt vendors are also part of the annual event, selling a wide range of items, including cotton candy, hot dogs, and pink, black and white paraphernalia.

“T-shirt! Get your T-shirts!” shouted first-year vendor Cornelius Smith of Baltimore from his stand to the passing crowd. He sold nearly 50 t-shirts for $10 each before the parade ended.

Police were out in major force at the parade, and kept an eye on crowd control.

“Move back, move back!” D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Ronald Southby calmly asked attendees as he attempted to clear the corner of Constitution Avenue and Seventh Street.

Southby chatted with Petty Officer First Class Larry Kevin Sam of Virginia Beach, Va., who was in full-dress Naval uniform and visiting the parade for the first time.

“I’ve been in the Navy for six years and have always been on tour during this time of year,” he said. “This parade is amazing and I love it.”

Battle of the Cities

By Sean Burke
UJW Staff Writer

WASHINGTON- Here we go again. Another city versus city match up is at it again in professional sports. 200px-Sacramento_Kings_alternate_logo.svg

Seattle has been on both ends of the stick. In 2008, the city lost its NBA franchise, the Supersonics, to Oklahoma City. Now in 2013, Seattle is trying to lure another franchise, the Kings, from Sacramento.
With the NBA board of governors meeting passed, the decision was to keep the team in Sacramento.
An agreement has been reached with the Sacramento Group by the Maloof family to sell the team for $535 million.

History is filled with instances where a team wants a new facility and threatens to leave otherwise. Seattle elected not to build a new arena. That led the Supersonics to move to Oklahoma City, which built an arena in 1999 to eventually lure an NBA team.

Miami faced a similar situation with its Major League Baseball franchise, the Marlins. Elected officials approved a plan to spend public monies on a new $639 million ballpark.

Other cities that made the same decision as Seattle and lost teams include Atlanta (the NHL’s Thrashers), Houston (the NFL’s Oilers) and Montreal (MLB’s Expos).

“Issues like these are often to be found in professional sports,” said Steve Solomon, of Washington D.C.’s ESPN 980.

The Kings moved to Sacramento in 1985 and have played in the same arena ever since. Sleep Train Arena is one of the oldest arenas in the NBA, though it has been renovated several times.

Three principal deals have been reached in the past five years, but either the city or the owners, the Maloof family, backed out. The Maloof family has owned the Kings since 1998, and has had financial troubles since 2003.

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has led the Sacramento group that has pledged $406 million for a new arena, with $16 million of that non-refundable. A total team value is $525 million, the original amount offered for the Hansen group.
Vivek Ranadive is part of this group, which would build a new arena in downtown Sacramento. Estimated completion time would be done by the 2016/2017 NBA season.

Seattle has been without a team for five years. Originally trying to replace Key Arena, a deal was not done and the Supersonics was moved from Seattle to Oklahoma City.

Chris Hansen, a hedge fund manager has put together a group who consists of, Steve Balmer, CEO of Microsoft and Peter and Erik Nordstrom, of Nordstrom, who are willing to buy the team and relocate them back to Seattle.

A bid that the Hansen group has offered is worth $625 million dollars, to buy the team.
“My brother and I are very excited to be part of this ownership group. We feel that Seattle deserves a new team, a new arena, and a new start.” said Erik Nordstrom, co- owner, of Nordstrom.

The Maloof family preferred the offer to Seattle, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN’s NBA coverage online.

“We are confident in the NBA and the board of governors will make the right decision.” said Clyde Smith, one of the many hoping the team is saved in Sacramento.

International Students Seek American Experience

By Melanie Aguilar-Rojas
UJW Staff Writer

With high school graduation finally over, many students are looking forward to a new life on a college campus. For some of these students, it may be their first time in the United States.

Hui Xin will experience that this fall at Smith College in Northampton, Mass.

“Studying abroad in the U.S. is quite rare among Malaysians,” Xin said via email from Malaysia. “Many Malaysians who study abroad prefer to go to the UK or Australia. However, I was drawn to the liberal arts curriculum [in the US] and the ability to explore different fields before settling on one major.”

Xin is going to join the thousands of international students studying in the U.S. at all levels of higher education.

In 2011, nearly 765,000 international students were enrolled in colleges and universities nationwide, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Only a decade earlier, there were more than 582,000 international students.

Xin applied to 12 schools including Boston College, the College of William and Mary and the University of Pennsylvania. While Xin was accepted to several universities in the U.S., she admitted that her application process to get to that point was a challenging one.

“Resources for us to get through the application process are very limited,” she said. “I’ve read books on admissions and also attended a session organized by a group of current Malaysian students who are studying in the U.S, who wanted to help prospective Malaysian students to understand the education system in the U.S.”

Advanced recruitment efforts by universities and other organizations can also account for the increase of international students, such as Education USA, a program funded by the State Department to give prospective international students information about applying to U.S. colleges and universities.

“We have folks who are overseas that are somewhat related to the universities and they are called regional advisors,” said Josué Barrera, spokesman for the State Department. “The local audience or foreign audience can look at that person that works in their region as somebody who can help them identify domestic universities that can support their area of academic interests.”

Some factors that students may take into account are academic reputation, affordability and location.

A popular US destination is Washington, D.C. Last year, the Nation’s Capitol had a total of 8,419 international students in its higher education institutions, according to the Institute of International Education information resource called Open Doors.

George Washington University has 3,058 international students, making it the institution with the highest number of international students in the city. These students come from 122 countries and make up 12 percent of the student population at the school, according to Kristin Williams, Associate Provost for Graduate Enrollment Management at George Washington.

Williams has made presentations abroad for prospective international students.

“In my conversations with both prospective undergraduate and graduate students, the big thing is the academic reputation of our institution, our faculty, and academic programs and this is supported by the major survey out of a group in London called i-graduate,” Williams said.

The International Graduate Insight Group (i-graduate) tracks and benchmarks over 1,400 colleges and universities around the world. Its survey called the International Student Barometer “tracks decision-making, expectations, perceptions and intentions of international students from application to graduation; providing global, regional and customised benchmarks,” according to the i-graduate website.

While each higher education institution is different, many U.S. colleges and universities
share the common feature of a well-rounded education to give students the flexibility to gain skills in multiple areas.

“At the undergraduate level we’re the premier place for people to get a very strong liberal arts degree,” Williams said. “A lot of the undergraduate programs around the world are very focused [and] topic-specific.”

Graduate studies in the U.S. also have their own advantages.

“We have areas of graduate study that aren’t readily available in their country,” Williams added. “Sometimes they are not able to go on and study certain things. We also tend to offer more customized areas of study and the flexibility to focus in different areas and take electives.”

Other incentives to study in the U.S. include research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students as well as internships that might not be available in their countries.
Many colleges and universities also attract a large number of international students by being located in cities or areas where a field is popular.

American University ranks third on the institutions with the highest number of international students in Washington, D.C. In 2012, it had 1,325 international students enrolled, according to the Institute of International Education. This year, American University received almost 2,100 applications from U.S. citizens living overseas and international students combined, according to Kristina Thompson, Associate Director of International Student and Scholar Services at American University.

“The fact that we have a very diverse study body really makes a big difference,” Thompson said. “They will feel like they’re going to be understood here and that there will be other people maybe from their country or speaking their language or at least other international students who are going to get what they are going through.”

Bianca Lagrutta enjoyed her first-year experience as a college freshman in America studying International Studies at American University. As a young girl, she knew she wanted to study something in the international relations field.

“It’s not really a major or career that is really well-known in Panama, so of course I was looking outside of Panama for school and D.C. is the center for everything IR related,” said Lagrutta, who was born in Panama and lived in several locations around the world growing up. “You really don’t feel like you’re secluded, or treated in a weird, special way.”

Students such as Xin and Lagrutta are what drive recruitment efforts and support networks for international students.

“We are creating international leaders, people who we will be able to work with because they understand us and they have experienced our lifestyle and vice versa,” Barrera said. “Hopefully, that creates an understanding that allows us to work together and create stable societies all around.”

Consumers Seek Labeling of Genetically Modified Foods

By Nadia Barnett
UJW Staff Writer

Navaal Madhi, 17, strives to eat organically as much as possible and tends to view genetically modified products as “harmful” and “detrimental in the long run because of the hormones they have.”

Madhi was happy when Whole Foods Market announced in March that by 2018 it would label all genetically modified products throughout its North American stores.

Whole Foods Market is the first grocery chain in the US and Canada to adopt this policy, known as genetically modified organisms transparency or GMO transparency. In April, the U.S. Congress introduced federal legislation that would require the labeling of genetically modified food. Currently, the U.S. has no such regulations.

“Its really smart because people get to choose not to eat them and I think if people see that label they’ll be able to tell that something is wrong with this food that they’re actually eating,” Madhi said.

Genetically modified organisms were created to increase crop yield, protect plants from herbicides, and reduce their allergenic potential, according to the World Health Organization. But there has been debate over possible long-term health risks that genetic engineering poses to consumers and to the environment.

Whole Foods Market said it adopted this policy to help its customers make informed choices about its genetically modified products.

A poll by the Mellman Group reports 91 percent of Americans support government regulation of genetically modified food. In addition to the pending federal legislation, several pro-labeling initiatives have arisen in many states.

During the November 2012 election, Proposition 37 of California attempted to force grocery stores to label genetically modified products in order to promote consumer awareness, according to Yes on 37 For Your Right to Know, a political advocacy group. In March, the Vermont House Agricultural Committee passed a policy of this nature, which is expected to go into the House Committee on the Judiciary.

Similarly, in Connecticut, the Public Health Committee approved a bill with this policy, but suspended further action until a similar bill or regulation is passed by two of its adjoining states.

“It’s important for [grocery] stores to give their customers that opportunity” to decide if they want to purchase a product that has been genetically modified, said Elisabeth Freeman, 42, while shopping at the Silver Spring Giant.

Citing “unforeseen adverse effects on human health, animal health or the environment,” the European Parliament and of the Council in September of 2003 passed legislation to ensure genetically modified product transparency,” according to Europa, a website maintained by the European Commission, an arm of the European Union that drafts proposals, implements policies and manages spending practices.

More than 60 countries around the world, including the European Union, now have upstanding laws requiring “GMO transparency,” according to The New York Times.

At least two international organizations, the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization, are wary of the effect of genetic engineering on food. Regardless of the benefits, there are unknown consequences to altering an organism which not only pose possible health risks to human consumers, but to the environment, according to The World Health Organization.

Meanwhile, the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations suggests that “careful monitoring of the post-release effects of [genetically modified] products” is necessary because “the biosafety of each product or process prior to its release” varies from case to case.

At Whole Foods, customer Michelle Pasalagua, 30, stated her position bluntly: “I like stuff labeled.”

Pasalagua, who on average “tries to eat as much fruits and veggies as possible,” believes the store’s decision “will make consumers more aware of what you are actually putting in your body.”

“Because right now you have to look at the label in the back and educate yourself,” she said, “and you are not as consciously aware of what you are putting in your body.”

But customer John Ruiz, 23, is unsure if genetically modified organism labeling is worthy of government attention.“It’s not like people eat healthy anyway,” he said.

Spark in Gun Control Support after Newtown Shooting, Local Actions

Gabby Brooks
UJW Staff Writer

ROCKVILLE, MD -Polls show that public support for tighter gun control has increased after the Newtown shooting in December. Since then, four states, including Maryland, have passed sweeping gun control legislation in response.

Maryland’s new bill, the Firearm Safety Act, which will not go in effect until October 1, is considered one of the strictest in the nation. It will ban many types of assault weapons, restrict the mentally ill from purchasing guns, and require all gun purchasers to submit fingerprints to the state police. Owners of now-banned assault weapons will be allowed to keep their guns.

The bill granted $25 million to the school construction program. Governor Martin O’Malley’s press secretary Takirra Winfield said it will be used to improve school safety, which will include ID scanners and locks.

“The bill is a comprehensive approach to address gun safety and violence prevention. The governor just wanted common sense licensing so guns don’t end up in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them,” Winfield said.

Elizabeth Zipf, a junior at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, does not support the new bill because she believes it violates the Second Amendment and leaves Maryland residents with limited capacity to defend themselves.

“Hard as it is to acknowledge, people are going to die because of guns. Legislation won’t stop that. Better identification of mental health problems might. Better societal awareness might,” Zipf said.

In Montgomery County, there were more than 58,000 reported crimes last year, according to the County Police Department website. However, there is no data specifying how many crimes involved guns.

Six students in neighboring Prince George’s County have been killed as a result of gun violence as of the end of April. Last year, there were 28,148 total crimes in the county, according to the County Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention.

However, the majority of Americans support background checks, the ban of selling assault weapons, and a new federal database to track all gun sales, according to an April ABC-Washington Post poll. Ninety-one percent of those polled support background checks and 82 percent support making illegal gun sales a federal crime, the poll showed.

In the first four months after the Sandy Hook shooting, there were more than 2,200 gun deaths in the United States, according to the Huffington Post. President Obama declared his support for tightened gun control, and mourned the losses in Newtown and other gun violence deaths.

Despite this, every gun control proposal failed in the US Senate in mid-April. The proposed bipartisan compromise for gun control included expanding background checks for gun purchasers and banning assault weapons.

However, other states support gun rights and are passing new laws that contrast Maryland’s. A new bill passed in Kansas in early April will permit selected school employees to carry concealed guns, according to the Wichita Eagle newspaper. Additionally, lawmakers in South Carolina hope to pass a bill that will create a gun-training class for high school students.

Opponents argue that the Maryland bill violates the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. Recently, a video of 15-year-old Marylander Sarah Merckle went viral, after she delivered a pro-gun speech to the Maryland State Legislature. As of April 26, her speech had more than 3 million views on YouTube.

“Purging our society of violence and murder cannot be done through gun control legislation,” Merckle said. “By signing this legislation, you are not signing away gun violence, but instead liberating American citizens of our constitutional rights.”