Setting up a showdown with gun advocates, the Baltimore City Council gave preliminary approval yesterday to a bill that would penalize gun owners who did not lock their guns away.
"In effect, this bill says if you must own a gun, you must be responsible," said Anthony J. Ambridge, D-2nd, the primary sponsor of the bill. "This is a safety issue first and last."
The measure, which supporters are calling the "trigger-lock bill," would require owners to store guns under lock and key or to immobilize the trigger with a locking device.
Supporters say the bill is designed primarily to protect children who find guns in their homes and shoot themselves accidentally or take the guns to school. They say the measure also would help prevent guns from passing from legitimate ownership into criminal hands through burglaries.
At a hearing last week, Dr. Modena Wilson, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, told council members that in an average year, 15 Marylanders under 16 were killed in gunshot accidents.
Should the bill become law -- it is scheduled for a final vote next week -- violators would face up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.
The bill also would require gun dealers to post notices of the gun restrictions in their stores.
The Maryland Licensed Firearms Dealers Association opposes the bill, saying it would violate a provision in the Maryland Code that reserves for the state the right to regulate the possession of guns.
The council also gave preliminary approval yesterday to a bill proposed by Councilman John A. Schaefer, D-1st, that would allow the Mediterranean Restaurant at 4901 Eastern Ave. to have live entertainment in a second-floor banquet hall. Members of the Fifteenth Street Improvement Association were persuaded to drop their opposition after the council included an amendment to the bill that would prevent the owners from selling tickets for events at the hall.