Two administration-backed gun control measures passed their first major hurdle in the General Assembly last week when the House Judiciary Committee approved them for a vote by the full House of Delegates. One bill would ban 38 types of military assault-style weapons from being sold in Maryland; the other would require gun owners to keep their firearms under lock and key to secure them from minor children.
Support for both measures is strong in the House, despite the arguments of gun owners' groups that assault weapons so far have constituted a relatively small fraction of the guns used in crimes. The point, however, is that this fraction will surely grow as the number of weapons proliferates. To date, some 30,000 assault-type weapons have been sold in the state, and sooner or later numbers of them inevitably will fall into criminal hands. That's why it's important to act now, when limiting the availability of such weapons can make a real difference down the line.
The so-called "gun lock" bill is no more than common sense. Most gun crimes commited by minors can be traced back directly to adult carelessness. If the guns had been locked up securely, the kids would never have gotten their hands on them. But too many adults simply don't take the responsibilities that go along with owning firearms seriously enough. Making them liable to prosecution for the kind of negligence that allows guns to fall into the hands of minors should help concentrate their minds on the safety, as well as the security aspects of gun ownership.