Another big bang

January 16, 1991

Governor Schaefer is said to be planning to introduce two new gun-control bills in the General Assembly which are certain to be among the most contentious issues lawmakers will face this year.

One bill, patterned after a recently enacted Florida law, would require adults to keep guns locked up to prevent children from gaining access to them. The other would ban the possession of military-style assault weapons after l992, and require permits for those who now own them.

The rise in handgun crimes committed by minors amply justifies the first measure. The most common source of firearms for teen-agers is the home. Leaving a deadly weapon where a child can get at it is a form of negligence that ought to carry stiff penalties, quite aside from any injury that may result from the gun's unauthorized use.

A ban of assault weapons is justified, but it also raises the prickly problem of criminalizing something that, up to now, has been legal. Over the past decade as many as 30,000 Marylanders may have purchased rifles that could fall under the definition. When a similar law was enacted in California, owners simply refused to comply.

While this presents an enforcement roadblock, it is clear that the level of violence in Maryland, as throughout the country, justifies tough measures. Rest assured, the well-financed gun lobby will be exerting its muscle to defeat the Schaefer proposals; we hope that citizens who stand to be injured by guns will make their voices heard in support of gun control.

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