Assault weapons hearing begins
Military-style assault weapons were described yesterday as either a growing plague or a bogyman concocted by gun opponents to chip away at the right to bear arms.
That conflict dominated a legislative hearing on a Schaefer administration proposal to ban assault rifles and pistols.
"These weapons are designed for one purpose and one purpose only -- to kill people," David S. Iannucci, the governor's chief legislative officer, told the House Judiciary Committee.
Following Iannucci were nearly a dozen law-enforcement leaders, gun-control activists and health officials, who claimed that assault weapons are used in 10 percent of the crimes committed, even though such weapons make up less than 1 percent of the nation's guns.
The bill's opponents ridiculed that claim. Carroll County State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman said less than 20 people have been killed by assault guns in Maryland over the past two years. Of the 600 or so homicides in Baltimore in the last two years, only 12 were committed using assault weapons, he added.
The governor's bill would prevent the sale of 39 types of semiautomatic weapons in the state after July 1. Marylanders who already own such weapons would have to get rid of them within six months unless they could get a permit from State Police. The state Senate Economic and Environmentals Affairs Committee today approved a bill that would make it easier for a health-care worker to determine if a patient has exposed him to ** the AIDS virus.
The bill, which now goes to the full Senate, would permit a health-care provider has been exposed to the patient's bodily fluids, such as through an accidental needle stick. If the patient is comatose, dead or mentlally unable to give his consent, then a relative could be asked for such consent.
The bill does not, however, allow patients to request that their doctors be tested for AIDS.
The committee voted to kill two other bills that would have required patients undergoing surgery to submit to AIDS testing and required labeling of bodies sent to funeral homes when the deceased had AIDS.
Gov. William Donald Schaefer made a surprise visit to the Senate Finance Committee yesterday to push his plan to set up a new department for state energy matters.
Schaefer said public concern about energy conservation slackened after the oil crises of the 1970s, only to increase with questions about how the Persian Gulf war may affect the nation's oil supplies.
A central agency devoted to energy conservation is necessary to prepare for state energy needs, Schaefer told the committee, because Maryland's energy policies currently are handled by a number of departments.
Schaefer stayed away from committee hearings during his first term in office. He said he plans to testify more often on administration bills during the next four years. He made two appearances last week before legislative committees.