'Dragon's Breath' target of legislative dousing Shotgun ammunition creates flamethrower

March 11, 1992|By Laura Lippman | Laura Lippman,Annapolis Bureau

ANNAPOLIS — An article in The Sun yesterday incorrectly reported Sen. Janice Piccinini's vote on a 1991 bill requiring gun owners to secure their weapons so that children can't use them. Senator Piccinini voted for the bill.

ANNAPOLIS -- Imagine turning your shotgun into a three-second flamethrower that can spew a 4,000-degree fireball to 300 feet.

Heck, why just imagine?

For $16.95 per three-round pack, anyone can purchase Dragon's Breath -- a registered trademark -- from the South Carolina-based Blammo Ammo Co.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

If you're worried about damage from the 12-gauge ammunition, an advertisement for it in Shotgun News last year claims it "blows a load of exotic, fast-burning, high temperature metals. . . . This round absolutely will NOT harm your shotgun barrel."

This ad prompted Baltimore County Sheriff Norman M. Pepersack Jr. to ask for legislation banning incendiary ammunition in Maryland. The result was Senate Bill 364, one of 14 proposed gun laws debated yesterday by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

The bills included the Schaefer administration's assault weapons ban and the so-called "kiddie lock" bill, which would require that guns be locked away or stored with a locking mechanism.

While those bills have provoked intense debate in Annapolis, culminating in a pro-gun rally yesterday, the Dragon's Breath bill drew little formal opposition in the committee hearing.

But the Maryland State Rifle & Pistol Association opposes the bill because it would set a precedent for ammunition bans.

"Once the anti-gun hate groups succeed in banning some kind of ammo, they'll try to ban some more kinds -- and more -- then all of it," the organization, which is affiliated with the National Rifle Association, warned in its newsletter.

Does Dragon's Breath have a legitimate purpose for sportsmen?

"It's more of an amusement type thing," said the man who answered the phone at Blammo Ammo, "It's just for fun."

He declined to answer additional questions or to identify himself, noting that the company's owners prefer not to talk to the press.

But the advertisement indicates that some precautions must be taken: "When used at night, proper sunglass protection recommended!"

Sen. Janice Piccinini, who voted last year against an assault weapons ban and a child-safety gun bill, introduced the Dragon's Breath bill as part of a legislative package developed with a special task force on crime.

"Instead of having drive-by shootings, we'll have drive-by flamings," the Baltimore County Democrat said of the ammunition, originally developed for use against terrorists, Blammo Ammo's ad copy says.

Law enforcement officials said the fireball blast would burn from the inside out on a human target. It also could melt a bulletproof vest or ignite a police car.

But to date, however, Dragon's Breath has been used on only one public target -- a 1971 Buick LeSabre in St. Petersburg, Fla. The discovery of Dragon's Breath casings in the burned-out car started a similar drive to ban the ammunition in that state.

Meanwhile, California and New York City had outlawed incendiary ammunition, so Blammo Ammo no longer ships Dragon's Breath to those states.

Today in Annapolis

10 a.m.: House and Senate convene, State House.

1 p.m.: Senate Finance Committee considers health insurance bills on medical assistance program and AIDS insurance assistance program, Presidential Wing, Senate Office Building.

1 p.m.: House Environmental Matters Committee considers the Chesapeake Bay Protection Act, Room 160, House Office Building.

There are 27 days remaining in the 1992 General Assembly session.

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