Senate committee squelches bill to ban assault weapons,6-5

March 13, 1992|By Laura Lippman | Laura Lippman,Annapolis Bureau

ANNAPOLIS -- The Schaefer administration's proposal to ban assault weapons died in a Senate committee yesterday.

Although the House of Delegates is working on a similar bill, Sen. Walter M. Baker, chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, made it clear his committee was not kindly disposed to the legislation.

"I'm a great believer in personal rights. As a former state's attorney, I also believe in punishing criminals," Mr. Baker, D-Cecil, said after the bill failed in his committee, 6-5.

"I also believe in the death penalty, which has not been carried out in decades. If we're not going to punish criminals, I will never vote to take away a person's rights to bear arms."

Gov. William Donald Schaefer initially had proposed a ban on 39 assault weapons, but his lobbyists had told lawmakers they were willing to cut the list to 15. The ban would not have affected current owners.

A similar measure died 7-4 in Mr. Baker's committee in 1991 but picked up an additional vote this year from Sen. Janice Piccinini, D-Baltimore County, because the bill no longer required current owners to pay a registration fee.

Most of the senators chose to explain their votes on the roll call.

Sen. Howard A. Denis, R-Montgomery, who supported the bill, also criticized the National Rifle Association for opposing the ban. "They have no legitimate purpose for sporting," Mr. Denis said of assault weapons. "They're terror weapons. They're drug-dealer weapons."

The unfavorable vote on the bill came as little surprise to its proponents. Mr. Baker, always hostile to weapons bans, announced the bill's demise after he and his wife, Jean, were mugged in Annapolis last month.

However, the administration stands a better chance of victory when the committee votes, perhaps today, on a bill requiring gun owners to secure their weapons for children's safety.

The so-called "kiddie lock" bill has five firm votes, and Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, D-Anne Arundel, has indicated he will vote for the bill if it is amended slightly.

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