Court ruling favors gun group Gun lobby can use records of police search.

April 09, 1992|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS -- The Maryland Court of Special Appeals has given a gun-advocacy group permission to review police records of a search of its Baltimore office on the eve of a gun-control referendum in 1988.

The court yesterday reversed an order by Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Lawrence H. Rushworth that prevented the Maryland Committee Against the Gun Ban from obtaining internal investigation reports compiled after police searched its offices in the 2500 block of N. Calvert St. on Nov. 7, 1988.

The lower court had concluded that disclosure of the records would be contrary to the public interest.

Police went to the group's Baltimore office to serve a subpoena, issued by city State's Attorney Stuart O. Simms, to find evidence that might show whether the group was violating elections laws. Police did not find any evidence linking the group to criminal violations.

Last November, the group filed suit in U.S. District Court in Baltimore charging that Mr. Simms used his authority to intimidate campaign workers and interfere with their efforts to defeat the gun-control measure, which was supported by voters.

Howard J. Fezell, an attorney for the organization, says he plans to use the internal affairs records in the federal lawsuit, which seeks compensatory and punitive damages against the city and the state's attorney's office.

Mr. Fezell says the police search disrupted the organization's operations and shut down its phone banks for several hours. He says the most damaging blow was in television news reports that made it appear that the group was involved in criminal activity.

Maryland voters supported the 1988 referendum that made it illegal to produce and sell certain handguns and created the Maryland Handgun Roster Board, which decides which handguns can be sold in the state.

William R. Phelan Jr., a senior city solicitor, says he has not seen the Court of Appeals' ruling and declined comment.

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