Teens play Congress at conference At Boys State, teens grapple with pressing national issues

June 28, 1992|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

WESTMINSTER -- Amid all the pretending at the Boys State conference here last week, one participant drew a real-life example during the mock debate on a gun-control bill.

"Last week my friend got shot walking to his home," said Robert Blunt, a 17-year-old from Riverdale in Prince George's County. "Sunday morning I was so mad I didn't know if I wanted to come to Boys State."

Despite Blunt's pleadings to fellow House Ways and Means members, the committee killed the bill that would have created a seven-day waiting period for purchasing a handgun.

The real U.S. Congress did the same thing last year with the "Brady Bill," as it came to be called after the press secretary who took a bullet intended for former President Ronald Reagan. James Brady and his wife, Sarah, had lobbied intensely for the bill.

As debates on other bills went on all over the Western Maryland College campus, the 40 boys in House Ways and Means argued over the gun-control bill with many of the same tactics and emo

tions used in real legislatures, said Vincent DeMarco of Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse, a gun-control lobby based Baltimore.

DeMarco was among dozens of activists, politicians, journalists, bankers, attorneys and others who testified or spoke during the weeklong conference that ended yesterday.

The bills the 280 boys tackled were among the most-controversial before Congress, including legislation on abortion rights, a balanced budget and a deposit on soft-drink containers.

Boys State conferences are sponsored by the American Legion and held annually at Western Maryland College. The Girls State conference was held last week at Washington College in Chestertown.

The summer tradition began when legion members wanted to create an alternative to the Nazi youth camps started in the United States.

The legion started its own program in 1935 in Illinois to promote a representative form of government rather than the totalitarian one espoused by Nazis, who at the time were respected by many Americans, said Raymond Callegary, a Baltimore lawyer and past legion commander who directs Boys State here.

The boys start out Sunday afternoon in a very militaristic structure designed to make them appreciate the democracy they would form over the next week, Callegary said.

Cadets and officers from the armed services volunteer to march the boys around to and from their activities all week.

But most of the military trappings, such as a real Marine forcing a boy who acts up to do push-ups, end by Monday when the boys start electing their own mayors, sergeants-at-arms and other officers.

"I really like the military aspect," said Timothy L. Yeager, 17, of Taylorsville, son of Patricia and Lawrence Yeager. He is a student at the McDonogh School in Randallstown.

Students representing Carroll high schools are:

* South Carroll High: Matthew T. Crill, Richard C. Crowe Jr., Matthew L. Green, Henry A. Oswald and Donald M. Pyles Jr., all of Sykesville; Todd A. Parks, Westminster; and George F. Weisenborn, Mount Airy.

* Westminster High: John J. Grantland, Finksburg.

* North Carroll High: Andrew P. Kiler, Manchester; Andrew T. Smith, Hampstead.

* Francis Scott Key High: Steven N. Hoary, Taneytown; and Richard W. Hooper, New Windsor.

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