61 delegates agree to co-sponsor gun control bill, but Senate hopes look dim

February 04, 1994|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,Sun Staff Writer

Sixty-one members of the House of Delegates have agreed to co-sponsor a sweeping gun control bill in the General Assembly, the lobby group Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse announced yesterday.

The comprehensive bill would ban the sale of assault weapons, require a license to purchase handguns and limit handgun purchases to two a year.

The number of sponsors -- which includes at least two committee chairmen -- is just 10 short of that needed to pass the legislation out of the 141-member House.

"The most important message here is that legislators understand . . . the time for gun control is now," said Vincent DeMarco, executive director of the gun control group, which is the prime force behind the proposed legislation.

The political impact of the broad show of support, however, remained unclear yesterday.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Howard P. Rawlings, a co-sponsor, said he thought it increased the chance that the House would pass at least some form of comprehensive gun control this year.

But Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. predicted such ... measure would not make it through the Senate.

Mr. Miller said there are nowhere near enough votes to bring the gun control bill to a full vote on the Senate floor.

The bill would have to first pass through the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, chaired by Walter M. Baker, a conservative Cecil County Democrat.

"A tough, comprehensive bill will have a very difficult time being favorably passed by his committee," Mr. Miller said.

Del. Joel Chasnoff, D-Montgomery, plans to introduce the bill Monday night after a gun control rally in front of the State House that will feature former presidential press secretary Jim Brady. Delegate Chasnoff is vice-chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which will hear the bill.

The list of bill sponsors includes several members of the House leadership, including Appropriations subcommittee Chairman Timothy F. Maloney and Commerce and Government Matters Chairman Gerald J. Curran. But conspicuously absent was House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr.

The broad show of support among delegates comes during an election year in which crimes and guns have emerged as top issues. While the number of co-sponsors represents 43 percent of the House membership, co-sponsors sometimes do not vote for their own bills.

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