Politicians who vote against gun control this election year face more chance for political retaliation than those who support it, reversing long-held convention, the leader of Maryland's gun-control forces declared yesterday.
Carrying the campaign for supporting handgun control to Baltimore County, Vincent DeMarco, director of Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse (MAHA), said a majority of the public and "very close to a majority" in the state Senate and House of Delegates favor measures to stem the proliferation of handguns and their concomitant violence.
During yesterday's news conference at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, Mr. DeMarco said MAHA is seeking sponsors for a comprehensive handgun-control bill it will submit to the General Assembly, which begins its annual 90-day session tomorrow in Annapolis.
The "piecemeal approach" to handgun control has failed, he said, so his group has drafted a broad proposal which would include requiring a photo-bearing license from the Maryland State Police for anyone to acquire a handgun by sale, loan or gift.
"We want a floor vote on this bill," Mr. DeMarco declared. "Committees [of the legislature] can't stand in the way of what the people want."
He said pointedly that "we don't expect support from Senator [Walter] Baker, [D-Cecil]," who has stymied gun-control legislation as chairman of the powerful Judicial Proceedings Committee.
Mr. DeMarco also urged citizens to attend a "Stop the Handgun Violence" rally that will be held Jan. 17, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, in Annapolis.
Mr. DeMarco said the names of supporting legislators will be announced. "We're asking people to take a position for or against it," he said.
Among the proposals are a state police background check along with an examination of the applicant's knowledge of handgun safety and risks. Private handgun sales between individuals would face the same restrictions as commercial transactions, and it would be illegal to give, sell or lend a handgun to anyone who did not have the valid license.
Del. Richard Rynd, D-11th, said the proposal "closes the worst loophole . . . that someone in this state can sell 10 guns to someone else and doesn't even have to ask his name."
The list of those prohibited from owning or possessing a handgun would be expanded to include anyone under 21, persons convicted of violent misdemeanors such as battery and those who have been subject to a civil protection order.
Assault weapons would be banned along with certain types of ammunition, including the so-called "dragon's breath" shotgun shell, the Black Talon bullet and .50-caliber bullets.
Del. E. Farrell Maddox, chairman of the Baltimore County House delegation, said the delegates would examine the proposal carefully. However, delegates from the eastern and northern areas always face heavy pressure not to support gun-control bills "and you have to listen to your constituents," he said.