Assault on weapons

March 27, 1991

Just two weeks ago the legislative attempt to place reasonable new legal controls on assault weapons was thought to be as dead as the most recent victim of one of those alleged "sporting" weapons.

But maybe not.

Though the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee killed one version of the bill, the House of Delegates was passing its own version, by a decisive 80-55 vote. That House bill can now be taken up by the Senate -- if, that is, it can get out of committee.

Both the House and Senate bills called for a ban on future sale of these terror weapons and for a limit on magazine size, no more than 20 bullets to a clip. The House bill does not, however, require present owners of assault guns to get permits. It was this last provision that led State Sen. Janice Piccinini to vote against the Senate bill. Therefore, House Bill 310 should be to her liking. With her backing the old 4-7 vote would become 5-6, within one delegate of committee approval. That delegate might be there.

When the Senate bill failed, Senate President Mike Miller said, "They tell me the House version is different from the Senate version, and I hope the committee would give the House the courtesy of a vote." With his support, committee approval could come, sending HB 310 to the full Senate, where gun control advocates say they are confident of passage.

Gun control is not a new cause. Two hundred years ago tomorrow, for instance, Hartford, Conn. passed a law limiting gun use. And it remains timely. Not a week passes in a major American city without the burial of a new victim of firearms.

With its Saturday Night Special legislation three years ago, Maryland was in the forefront of ending the madness associated with uncontrolled gun ownership. But now while the movement seems to be catching on elsewhere, Maryland seems to be faltering. The house version of the assault weapon control bill is hardly a radical measure. The best second thought our legislators could have is to reverse course and bring the bill up before the full Senate.

How could anyone object to that?


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