ANNAPOLIS — Hampstead resident C.D. "Hap" Baker wears his disdain for gun-control legislation on his sleeve . . . and his coat . . . and his hat.
Baker, legislative liaison for the Carroll County Sportsmen's Association, is a walking advertisement against attempts to regulate firearms.
On a recent trip here to gather bills, the 66-year-old avid outdoorsman's ensemble included a National Rifle Association cap proclaiming "Self Defense -- It's My Right"; a button advocating "Crime Control Not Gun Control"; and a department store-style nameplate advising "Criminals Won't Wait 7 Days. Why Should You?"
And no gun-control hearings were scheduled that day.
And there he was Monday, in the front row of the legislature's largest hearing room, to testify against the governor's proposal to ban the future sale or transfer of 48 varieties of semiautomatic, military-style assault weapons. The legislation also would prohibit possession of the weapons unless acquired bythe owner prior to Oct. 1, 1992.
In his testimony, Baker called the administration bill "a crime against the honest gun owners of Maryland" that wouldn't help reduce crime on the streets.
Several other Carroll residents made the journey here to oppose the bill, claiming that it would be an infringement upon their right to possess firearms. No Carroll residents signed up to testify in support of the ban.
The administration is pushing for the prohibition because the weapons "have virtually no legitimate role in civilian society, but are encountered more and more frequently by law enforcement officials," the governor's office said in a written statement.
The Maryland Chiefs of Police Association bases its support for the bill upon "fear for the lives of our officers and for the lives of the citizens of Maryland" and says the legislation targets "a small number of firearms specifically designed to annihilate human beings."
But Baker, who teaches hunter education and firearm safety for the Department of Natural Resources, says the weapons are "nothing more than restyled guns used for target shooting and hunting."
He says "so much hype about so-called assault weapons" has misled the public and raised fears that are unwarranted.
"The demonstrations are always with Hollywood-style fully automatic weapons," he said. "The implication is that a semiautomatic gun is the same as fully automatic."
Semiautomatics are self-loading and fire one shot each time the trigger is pulled, while automatics fire as long as the trigger is held.
Mount Airy resident Paul H. Smith, 38, a retired National Park Service historian, presented the House Judiciary Committee his interpretation of the Second Amendment guaranteeing the right to keep and bear arms and the writings of the nation's founding fathers on the subject.
Under his interpretation, every "law-abiding, peaceful citizen" has the right to possess weapons of the latest technology, without restrictions.
"By going after legal gun owners, they're going after the easy targets because they failed in going after criminals," said Smith.
Three Carroll delegates -- Republicans Richard C. Matthews and Donald B. Elliott and Democrat Richard N. Dixon -- oppose the legislation. Del. Lawrence A. LaMotte, D-Carroll, Baltimore, voted last year for a similar administration bill, which passed the House but was killed by a Senate committee.
"I just don't think any of this gun legislation hasbeen effective," said Elliott. "The way to go is to be tougher on criminals."