House approves bill banning assault weapons

March 05, 1992|By Marina Sarris | Marina Sarris,Annapolis Bureau

ANNAPOLIS -- A bill banning the sale of certain semiautomatic assault weapons in Maryland cleared the House of Delegates yesterday, but it appeared unlikely to succeed in the Senate.

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee killed assault-weapons legislation last year, and its chairman, Walter M. Baker, is still opposed to the governor's gun bill.

The bill's chances with Senator Baker, a conservative Democrat from Cecil County, took a turn for the worse last month, when Mr. Baker and his wife were mugged in Annapolis. He resolved afterward not to restrict the ability of honest citizens to buy guns.

The administration bill would outlaw future sales of about three dozen categories of military-style assault weapons, but it would allow current owners to keep theirs.

Proponents say banning weapons designed for mass killings will help reduce the number of random homicides and drug-related murders.

Before the House voted 79-50 for the bill yesterday, Del. Elijah E. Cummings said the legislation would "allow some young men to grow up and become fathers and productive members of society."

The Baltimore Democrat spoke of attending the funeral of a young man killed in Baltimore by Uzi-toting attackers. The bill's opponents say it will hurt law-abiding sportsmen and gun owners, while criminals, they maintain, would continue to obtain assault weapons illegally.

Del. George W. Owings III, D-Calvert, who owns four assault weapons covered by the bill, said the measure contains a loophole.

Mr. Owings contended that he still could bring an assault weapon into Maryland if it was purchased legally in another state by a resident of that state and was given to him as a gift there.

Another bill facing a tough audience in the Senate is the governor's growth-control measure, which the House passed 121-13 yesterday.

The bill attempts to limit suburban sprawl without angering the business community. It's a watered-down version of a growth-control measure Gov. William Donald Schaefer introduced last year.

A leading Senate environmentalist, Gerald W. Winegrad, D-Anne Arundel, said the House version is too weak and senators plan to strengthen it.

"Many of the committee members had concerns about whether it would do anything," Senator Winegrad said. This year's bill directs counties and cities to revise their land-use plans, zoning and development rules to conform with broad principles, such as concentrating construction in "suitable areas."

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