While Congress decides if and when to do something about assault weapons, the General Assembly ought to act now. Gov. William Donald Schaefer says he will sponsor legislation to place needed controls on the growing arsenal of semi-automatic guns in Maryland. He deserves credit and support. In recent years these dangerous, non-sporting weapons have become a favorite criminals. They are a threat to crime victims, innocent bystanders and law enforcement officers.
The governor's bill is expected to be similar to one pushed by Del. Peter Franchot, a long-time advocate of controls on assault weapons. It would (1) ban the sale of some 40 specific models and (2) require a permit to own previously purchased assault weapons. Minors and dangerous individuals, such as convicted felons, could not get permits.
National Rifle Association voices claim Governor Schaefer supports such legislation out of spite. They note that Fred Griisser ran against him in the 1990 Democratic primary on a pro-gun platform. The reverse is true: Mr. Griisser and the NRA acted out of spite. He ran a hopeless race (he got 22 percent of the vote) because the governor had defeated the NRA in its 1988 effort to repeal a law banning Saturday night specials.