Trying to change Sauerbrey's stance on guns

October 20, 1994|By MICHAEL OLESKER

In a season when the guns make everyone cringe -- a 61-year-old man fires into a crowd of kids throwing rocks at his car and kills a 13-year-old; a Baltimore County judge sanctifies an act of barbarism by reluctantly giving 18 months to a man who kills his wife -- these three women walked into Ellen Sauerbrey's campaign headquarters Tuesday and asked for a small gesture of sanity, which they were naturally denied.

"Mrs. Sauerbrey isn't here," explained Carol Hirschburg, an aide to the Republican candidate for governor.

"She's got to re-examine her conscience," said Barbara Willis, for whom it is already a little too late.

Such things are a long-shot at any time, but particularly in a political season. Sauerbrey, backed by the various big gun interests, has voted consistently against measures to control the guns, and now, with less than a month until Election Day, it was sheer naivete, or desperation, or simply their shared grief that brought these women to see her, emotions which they say will bring them back each mid-day until the election.

Each one -- Barbara Willis, Georgia Garret and Lois Hess -- has lost a child to the guns, and knows that the various laws still make it too easy for weapons to proliferate, and that some politicians find it convenient simply to turn away from the bloodshed.

"Mrs. Sauerbrey's voted against every piece of legislation," Willis said now.

"If you want to make an appointment . . . ," said Hirschburg.

"If she sits down with us," said Willis, "we expect her to change her position."

"She feels great compassion," said Hirschburg.

"But she voted against. . . ."

"Criminals," said Hirschburg, "not guns, are the core. . . ."

Now came another voice, Maria Pica's, from the back of a small crowd that had gathered at a doorway.

"Do you know why Mrs. Sauerbrey wants to make it easier to buy assault pistols?" she asked.

"I don't know that," Hirschburg said.

"I have a 14-year-old boy running around my neighborhood," Pica said, "and he's showing off his assault pistol to all the kids on the block."

Sauerbrey voted against the banning of assault pistols such as Uzis. She voted against the banning of Saturday night specials, and against a seven-day waiting list, and against a bill requiring those with small children to keep their guns unloaded or locked up.

At such times, we hear the voices of those ducking the reality around them. The argument is made, with much passion, that law-abiding citizens need guns to protect themselves from the criminal hordes.

To such voices, it doesn't much matter when the various police agencies say such scenarios are a myth, that we don't find the frontier image of honest folks defending their loved ones from housebreakers.

What we see, instead, is the sort of thing that happened on Monday, when Baltimore County Judge Robert E. Cahill, in an act that should trail him for the rest of his life, gave 18 months to a man named Kenneth Lee Peacock for killing his wife.

Peacock shot the wife, Sandra Kay Sloan Peacock, with a hunting rifle. He is a trucker. He bought the rifle in case his wife had to defend herself in his absence. Instead, Peacock arrived home unexpectedly and found her in bed with another man. Peacock then sat himself down, had some drinks over the span '' of a few hours, and then opened fire with the gun purchased to protect his wife.

For this, Judge Robert Cahill gives him 18 months and announces that few married men "would have the strength to walk away without inflicting some corporal punishment."

In the eyes of many, the judge has just made himself an accessory after the fact of murder. In the eyes of those picketing Sauerbrey headquarters, the shooting becomes an example of guns backfiring on those who wish to use them honestly.

On Tuesday, Sauerbrey's people seemed braced for the grieving mothers.

"There are many people whose families have been victims of crime who support us," said Carol Hirschburg. She handed out a list with seven names on it.

The killing goes on, and the guns proliferate. The women outside Sauerbrey headquarters want her to change her mind, but it's a little late in the season for such expectations.

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