Passive Legislating

March 18, 1994|By DON KILGALLON

Two headlines ran side-by-side on proposals in the current Maryland legislature:

''Smoking Ban Hits Bars, Restaurants.''

''Tougher Gun Control Unlikely This Year''

Proposing the smoking ban in bars and restaurants, William A. Fogle, secretary of licensing and regulation, single-handedly announced the ban with these words: ''This is a health issue. I can't leave somebody [meaning bars and restaurants] out.'' His intent is ''to protect workers from the hazards of inhaling second-hand smoke.'' The legislature is expected to pass the ban.

What about first-hand smoke, the smoke from gunfire? What about regulating the smoking guns? Can Mr. Fogle ban guns from bars and restaurants?

Officials from the governor's office said that ''proposals to license handgun buyers [or] regulate private sales would probably fail in the legislature.'' Consequently, the legislature will act on the health issues of second-hand smoke, but not on the death issue of gunsmoke.

Despite the enthusiastic support of most Marylanders, including the governor, proposals to control guns ''appear near defeat'' in the General Assembly because of ''stiff opposition from gun enthusiasts.''

Gun enthusiasts? Who are these happy gun wielders, these perpetrators of death of the defenseless and the innocent, both animals and people? Who are these gun-loyal lobbyists?

They are those who make fortunes from the manufacture and sale of guns. Those who enthusiastically engage in the recreation of killing animals. Those for whom drive-by shootings have replaced drag racing as weekend pastimes. Those who prey on society every day, committing violent attacks with guns that injure, maim, kill -- actively not passively, directly not indirectly, first-hand not second-hand.

These ''gun enthusiasts'' say ''no'' to controlling their guns. The legislature cowers, and passes on deadly gunsmoke while passing instead a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants because of the ''hazards of inhaling second-hand smoke.''

Smokers and non-smokers almost unanimously, and enthusiastically, support gun control -- to no effect.

Consistent with its courageous ban on second-hand smoke in bars and restaurants, the legislature should consider further bans: on alcohol, for example -- because of the dangers of passive drinking, that is, the indirect effect of drunkenness on those in the way of wheel-wielding drunk drivers. Outlawing drinking would handle the problem.

And while they're at it, how about prohibiting eating, too? With its cholesterol, fat, salt and other deadly ingredients, fatal food is a killer on every plate. Outlawing food would solve this.

A courageous, comprehensive ban from the Maryland legislature regulating patrons of bars and restaurants would then be complete. Prohibited would be smokers, drinkers and eaters.

Everyone else would be permitted. Especially gun enthusiasts.

Passive legislating is a crime. How about a ban on that?

Don Kilgallon writes from Lutherville.

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