Panel seeks more control of gun sales State should regulate private purchases commission suggests

Governor studying report

Proposals will face heavy opposition, 2 legislators predict

November 02, 1995|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,SUN STAFF

A commission advising Gov. Parris N. Glendening has recommended limiting handgun purchases in Maryland to one a month and regulating private sales, a loophole through which criminals sometimes obtain firearms.

After six months of study, the Governor's Commission on Gun Violence also proposed licensing handgun owners and requiring them to receive firearms training approved by the state police.

The recommendations fall short of the gun control policies Mr. Glendening supported as a candidate during the 1994 campaign. The governor declined to say yesterday which ones he would adopt as a part of his legislative package for next year.

"I know we have a major problem of gun violence, and certainly the events of the last two weeks really illustrate that," Mr. Glendening said, referring to the fatal shooting of a state trooper on the Eastern Shore and disclosure by federal authorities that a Prince George's County gun shop sold 220 firearms linked to crime.

"We're going to have a strong bill," he said. "But before we get into the specifics of that, I'm going to consult particularly with legislative leaders to make sure we get our bill through."

The chairmen of two key legislative committees criticized the commission's findings, suggesting that some recommendations would face significant resistance in the General Assembly.

In a 33-page report, the panel proposed limiting handgun sales to make it more difficult for traffickers to buy in bulk. It recommended a criminal background check and a seven-day waiting period for private citizens to sell handguns to each other. Under current law, there are no restrictions on private sales.

Commission Co-chairman Vincent DeMarco, former head of Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse, said the proposal did not go as far as one made last year by the gun control lobby group.

"It doesn't have everything," Mr. DeMarco said. "But it is a good proposal."

In a minority report, commission member Joseph F. Vallario Jr., a state delegate, criticized some recommendations.

Mr. Vallario -- chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which handles gun legislation -- said federal law addresses the problem of high volume purchases. Sales of more than one handgun a week to the same person must be reported to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said Mr. Vallario, a Prince George's County Democrat.

State Sen. Walter M. Baker, chairman of the committee that handles gun issues in the Senate, also expressed reservations.

Mr. Baker said limiting sales to one gun a month would encourage gun traffickers to buy elsewhere. He said the problem needs to be addressed at the federal level.

"All we're going to do is send them to North Carolina," said Mr. Baker, a Cecil County Democrat.

Mr. Baker is the legislature's most powerful gun rights advocate, and his committee often has been a graveyard for gun control bills. He said he is open to compromise, but offered no details.

"I've been talking to the governor," he said. "We may be able to come up with something."

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