Carey urges harsh sentences for those who sell or use handguns near schools CAMPAIGN 1994 -- ATTORNEY GENERAL

June 14, 1994|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,Sun Staff Writer

Attacking Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. as soft on crime, Democratic challenger Eleanor M. Carey called yesterday for stiffer sentences for people caught selling or using handguns in or near schools.

Ms. Carey, a former deputy attorney general, said she supports establishing gun-free zones extending 1,000 feet from all schools.

Under her proposal, anyone convicted of selling or using a handgun within those zones could be sentenced to 20 years in prison and fined as much as $20,000.

Similar bills have been rejected by the General Assembly the last two years, Ms. Carey said.

"Had I been attorney general, I would have been in Annapolis day after day mobilizing support to [pass] the gun-free school legislation," Ms. Carey said at an afternoon news conference outside Malcolm X Elementary School in Northwest Baltimore. A kindergarten teacher was shot in the face during an attempted carjacking near the school in February.

"We can't afford to wait another four years to have an attorney general who will be in the forefront in the war on crime," Ms. Carey said.

Robin Pressman, a spokeswoman for Mr. Curran, noted that the attorney general has been one of the leaders in the state's gun-control efforts for many years. She added that he had supported the bills in the legislature to establish gun-free zones around schools.

"Joe Curran has been aggressively working on issues dealing with crime in his tenure as attorney general," Ms. Pressman said. "He's working to get the job done and not grab the next headline about it."

Mr. Curran is seeking a third four-year term.

In an attempt to quantify what Ms. Carey termed a "crisis" of

guns in the schools, her campaign aides cited a state report that showed there were more than 2,000 incidents in which students were suspended for bringing deadly weapons or explosives onto school property in the 1992-'93 school year.

Her proposal would impose the stiffer penalties only for the sale or use of a handgun. She said current penalties for possessing a gun on school property are sufficient.

The attack on Mr. Curran's crime-fighting effort follows a similar effort by Republican candidate Richard D. Bennett.

A former federal prosecutor for Maryland, Mr. Bennett has called for reorganizing the attorney general's office to assign lawyers to help prosecute some violent crimes.

Currently, most crime is prosecuted by local state's attorneys rather than by lawyers in the attorney general's office.

Patrick J. Smith, a third Democratic candidate in the Sept. 13 primary, said he supports a 60-day stay in a boot camp style prison for any student convicted of bringing a gun onto school property.

Mr. Smith, a Rockville attorney, managed former U.S. Sen. Paul E. Tsongas' successful 1992 Maryland presidential primary campaign.

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