Assault Pistol Fence-Sitters

March 17, 1994

Remember these names: American Joe Miedusiewski, George Della, Vernon Boozer, Thomas Bromwell, Nancy Murphy and Michael Wagner.

These are metro-area fence-sitters in the drive to ban 18 brands of semi-automatic pistols, known as assault weapons, from Maryland. Most of these state senators have made a commitment to groups trying to remove assault pistols from the streets but are now equivocating.

We find it appalling that these senators actually believe assault pistols serve a legitimate sporting or self-defense purpose. They don't. Yet such rapid-fire weapons are becoming guns of choice for hoodlums on the streets of our communities. That's why there's no question these guns ought to be banned in Maryland and elsewhere.

Yet the fence-sitters continue to emit conflicting signals. Given the lopsided margins in public opinion polls, senators who oppose a ban on assault pistols risk the wrath of voters. For some like Mrs. Murphy, who has designs on becoming the first female Baltimore County executive, standing up for the right of gun nuts to fire away with their 32-round Uzi or 30-round Partisan Avenger Auto Pistol or 50-round Spectre Double Action could prove costly in neighborhoods with rising crime.

The king of the fence-sitters is Baltimore City's Mr. Miedusiewski. He first gave a vague commitment of support for some handgun control, then tried to hedge, then moved to kill the assault-pistol bill through re-referral, then voted against the bill in committee, then said he would vote for the bill on the floor and then sided with pro-gun forces in delaying a showdown until today.

Where does he stand? If Mr. Miedusiewski wants to be taken seriously as a candidate for governor, he had better learn that talking with a forked tongue isn't politically correct anymore.

Passage of an assault-pistol ban would be an important step in getting some of the most dangerous guns off the streets. Supporters ought to object strenuously to Sen. Walter Baker's killer amendments and efforts to love the bill to death. Those who opt to let a filibuster persist should realize their votes will be interpreted as pro-gun votes.

The time has come to crack down on assault pistols. They have no place in Maryland. Senators on the fence soon will have to land on one side or the other. We are following their voting patterns carefully. So are voters.

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