Senate bills aim at guns, bullets

January 21, 1994|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Staff Writer

The president of the Maryland Senate was to introduce legislation today that would prohibit anyone convicted of child abuse, or who has been ordered by a court to stay away from someone, from ever buying or possessing a handgun in Maryland.

In addition, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said two other state senators were to introduce a bill today that would place a tax of at least 50 cents, and in some cases as much as $5, on each round of ammunition sold in Maryland.

Unlike his own bill and virtually every other gun control measure introduced in the Senate, Mr. Miller said the ammunition tax bill would not be sent to the Judicial Proceedings Committee, where gun control legislation has often died in recent years under the rule of the panel's conservative chairman, Cecil County Democrat Walter M. Baker.

Instead, Mr. Miller said, because the bill raises a taxation issue, it will be referred to the Budget and Taxation Committee, where it may receive a more sympathetic reception. The measure is co-sponsored by Sens. Decatur Trotter, D-Prince George's, and Larry Young, D-Baltimore.

Mr. Miller has vowed to get some form of gun control legislation to the floor of the Senate this session so the entire Senate can vote on an issue of growing importance to the public during this election year.

Robert McMurray, spokesman for the Maryland State Rifle and Pistol Association, said Mr. Miller's legislation is unnecessary and called the proposed tax on ammunition ridiculous and a ruse.

The measure would apply a 50 cents per round -- or $10 for a box of 20 rounds -- tax on most ammunition, and a $5 per round tax on "anti-personnel" rounds, which have hollow points and jackets that peel back upon impact into barb-like projections that cause more damage than standard ammunition.

Black Talon, one brand of that type of more expensive ammunition, generally retails for about $16 or $17 for a box of 20 rounds, Mr. McMurray said, noting that the proposed tax would add $100 to that cost. He said such bullets are purchased by citizens for self-defense purposes because they do not pass through whoever is shot.

"They stay with the perpetrator and do not do any damage to any innocent parties," he said, adding that when he was young such ammunition was known as "a storekeeper's load."

"It is totally ridiculous to deprive law-abiding citizens of effective defense ammo," he said.

Mr. Miller's legislation was drafted in consultation with gun control advocates and groups working to strengthen protections against domestic violence.

"It is a common-sense approach to a very real problem," the Prince George's County Democrat said.

"People under or subject to an order by the court to prohibit them from contacting a person because of a propensity of domestic violence should not be in a situation where they have a handgun made available to them," he said.

The bill would apply to anyone who has ever been convicted of child abuse, or who has been a respondent in a civil protective order proceeding and against whom an order was then entered. The proposed ban on handgun purchases would apply even if the protective order has expired.

"Ex parte" protective orders, which are often granted on a temporary basis before the second party has had a chance to appear in court to reply, would be exempted.

Vincent DeMarco, executive director of Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse, said: "People who are child-abusers or spouse-abusers are the kinds of people we think should not have handguns.

"We commend Senator Miller for the courageous act in protecting people from those who should not have handguns."

He said statistics on domestic violence cases indicate that if there is a handgun in the home, incidents are 12 times more likely to end in death.

Mr. McMurray, however, countered with his own statistics drawn from State Police, which he said demonstrate that firearms are not used in a majority of spousal assaults.

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