Gun bills will rise again

March 11, 1991

Last week's vote by the state Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee to kill a bill banning assault weapons effectively shot down the centerpiece of gun control legislation in Maryland this year. The only other measure being seriously considered, a "gun lock" bill requiring owners to keep firearms under lock and key, away from children, was also killed on Friday.

Though last week was an apparent setback for gun control advocates, Maryland has made great progress in limiting the availability of such weapons in recent years and there is every reason to believe public support for such measures remains strong. Sooner or later the bills defeated last week, or legislation similar to it, will become law. Consider that opponents of the assault rifle ban claim -- with some truth -- that the number of crimes committed with such weapons so far has been small. Yet that admission itself vindicates earlier efforts to make it tougher for criminals to get their hands on guns -- efforts, we might add, which the gun lobby opposed just as vigorously as this year's bills.

In the past three years Maryland has banned outright the cheap handguns known as Saturday Night Specials, and subjected assault rifle buyers to the same waiting period and background checks as handgun purchasers. Both were tough fights, but many lives probably were saved as a result. We trust that those who advocate modest restrictions on gun ownership -- like the assault rifle ban and gun lock bills -- will be back in Annapolis next year, and that eventually reason will prevail.

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