4 governors join in fighting illicit gun sales Schaefer signs pact with Va., N.J., Del.

August 16, 1993|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Staff Writer

TULSA, Okla. -- The governors of Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and New Jersey struck an agreement yesterday aimed at slowing illegal gunrunning among their mid-Atlantic states.

The pact, signed by the governors on a coffee table in a hotel lobby during a break in this year's annual National Governors' Association summer conference, will require police agencies in each state to pool gun licensing information and jointly investigate the movement of illegal firearms within or among their states.

The measure calls for development of a computerized data base that will allow the participating states to cross-reference their searches to better identify persons or groups trading in illegal guns.

It also calls for regular coordination with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

"This is a rather common-sense observation, but this is something that can be dealt with more efficiently with regional cooperation," said New Jersey Gov. James J. Florio.

The four Democratic governors, including Maryland's William Donald Schaefer, said multistate cooperation was their only alternative absent more effective national gun-control laws.

The other signers were Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder and Delaware Gov. Thomas R. Carper.

The governors said they were prompted to act in an effort to stem the spread of violent crime in their states.

Mr. Schaefer named State Police Superintendent Larry W. Tolliver to oversee Maryland's involvement in the agreement.

The pact envisions a multistate coordinating committee, and the governors expressed hope that other East Coast states would join in the agreement.

"It's absolutely essential that [the agreement] be widened" to include other states, Governor Wilder said. "It's something everyone has to take a look at in the absence of a national approach."

Governor Wilder overcame opposition from the National Rifle Association this past winter to push through legislation that limits gun purchases in Virginia to one per buyer per month.

For too long, he said yesterday, crimes in New York and elsewhere were committed with guns purchased legally and illegally in Virginia.

Page W. Boinest, Mr. Schaefer's press secretary, said any cost RTC associated with the agreement is likely to be minimal, although she said no one yet knows how difficult or expensive it may be to link police agencies in the four states by computers.

"Strong gun laws in Maryland are essential to making our state safer," Governor Schaefer observed, "but it's still too easy to obtain a gun in another state and bring it into Maryland."

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