Gun control group happy about big electoral gains

September 16, 1994|By ROGER SIMON

There were winners and losers in Tuesday's primary election, but there was also something else:

A quiet revolution.

In June of last year, I wrote about how Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse (MAHA) intended to propose a comprehensive gun control bill, send it to each candidate for state office in the 1994 election and then tell the public which candidates supported gun control and which did not.

The comprehensive bill would:

1. Require the licensing of handgun and handgun ammunition purchasers.

2. Make anyone who illegally transfers a handgun to another person civilly liable for any damage caused by that handgun.

3. Deny handguns to spouse abusers and those who have committed violent misdemeanors.

4. Ban the sale of assault rifles.

5. Ban the sale of gun magazines that hold more than 10 bullets.

6. Limit the number of handgun purchases per month or per year.

MAHA did its job over the last 15 months and the results are now in. And the news is so good, Vinny DeMarco, MAHA's executive director, could barely contain his excitement.

"We're close to having an absolute majority in both the Senate and the House in Annapolis," he said. "And when the general election is over, I think we will have that majority."

To get a majority of the Senate, you need 24 senators out of 47.

"And we now have 23 Senate districts with pro-gun control candidates where victory is virtually assured in November," DeMarco said. "And in the 12th District, where the Democrats have a 2-1 majority, the odds are very strong for a victory. In another seven districts, the odds of electing a pro-gun control candidate range from very likely to possible."

To get a majority of the House, you need 71 delegates out of 141.

"We have at least 68 pro-gun control votes assured and the zTC possibility of winning 26 more in November," DeMarco said. "I am absolutely confident we will get the 71 we need for a majority in the House, and in all likelihood we will get more than that."

But did a candidate's gun control stance really make a difference in this week's primary election?

Well, take a look at the 12th Senate District.

There, Edward J. Kasemeyer staked out gun control as the issue that would distinguish him from the other Democrats in the race.

"The difference in this election is very clear," Kasemeyer announced in August. "It's sort of a referendum to determine the feelings of people on gun control and to curtail the violence in our society."

Kasemeyer supported MAHA's comprehensive gun control bill, and last weekend Sarah Brady, chairwoman of Handgun Control Inc., campaigned in the district for him.

Incumbent Democrat Sen. Nancy L. Murphy, on the other hand, received $4,000 from the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund. "Gun control has little effect on crime," Murphy said.

On Tuesday, the people spoke. And Kasemeyer won, beating Murphy by 6 percentage points.

"It's happening," DeMarco told me. "In that piece you did last year, we said we wanted people to vote for gun control candidates. And now they are. It's really happening. And now we can enact our legislation in 1995."

The defeat of Senator Murphy was especially important to MAHA, since she served on the Judicial Proceedings Committee, the burial ground of many gun control bills.

"We want the new Senate and House committees that are formed next year to reflect the gun control majorities that will be elected to the General Assembly," DeMarco said. "We would expect to have a majority of the Judicial Proceedings Committee in the Senate and of the Judiciary Committee in the House."

DeMarco does not take credit for the gun-control victories in the primary. He credits the profound effect that gun violence is having on our society.

"People are getting sick of the violence and sick of the gun lobby's power," DeMarco said. "People want sensible, strong laws and they realize they aren't going to get them unless they vote for pro-gun control candidates.

"Study after study shows that when you reduce the proliferation of handguns, you reduce murder, suicide and accidental death, and that is our aim. Our comprehensive bill is not an overnight cure. It's a minimum of what the people of this state need."

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