Teen's wounding shows need for gun control, group says Supporters stand up for governor's bill

February 22, 1996|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

The small-caliber bullet that struck Kenneth Harvard Jr. earlier this month while he was sledding in Howard County's Guilford neighborhood spared his life but dashed his dreams.

The 19-year-old is blind in one eye from the bullet in his head and may never achieve his ambition of being a military chef.

Yesterday at an Ellicott City news conference called by Howard County Clergy for Social Justice, Howard supporters of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's tough new gun control proposal cited the Guilford resident as an illustration of why such restrictions are needed.

"People are tired of violence," said state Sen. Edward Kasemeyer, a Democrat who represents western Howard County and is a co-sponsor of the bill. "We've got to learn that guns are not the things to have."

Mr. Glendening's proposal -- which would be one of the nation's toughest gun control measures -- would limit handgun purchases from stores to one per person per month and would require criminal background checks, fingerprinting, licensing and a firearm safety course for handgun buyers.

Gun enthusiasts oppose it, arguing that the government should institute tougher sentences on criminals rather than limit the number of guns people can buy. About 1,000 gun rights advocates rallied outside the State House Monday to show their opposition to the bill.

"The governor has yet to prove that any of the procedures or policies he wants to put into place will have any effect on criminals," Sanford Abrams, vice president of the Maryland Licensed Firearms Dealers Association, said yesterday. "It only restricts the law-abiding citizen."

However, the governor's proposal has won support from almost three dozen Baltimore-area business leaders, including Mathias J. DeVito, chairman of the Rouse Co., who endorsed the measure in an ad in The Sun yesterday.

Mr. DeVito was out of state yesterday and could not be reached for comment. Cathy Lickteig, a spokeswoman for Rouse, said the endorsement was not a show of support from the company. "It's an individual, personal thing," she said. "As a company, we ,, would probably not take a position."

Those who attended yesterday's news conference said the incident involving Mr. Harvard demonstrates the need for stricter gun control.

"It's not just another piece of legislation," said Howard County Councilwoman Mary C. Lorsung, a 4th District Democrat. "It's an issue of conscience."

The wounded man's father, Kenneth Harvard Sr., attended the news conference .

"I'm upset. I'm angry," he said. "I want to support the gun control because I really think it will make a difference. Something has to be done."

The younger Mr. Harvard was shot in the head Feb. 5 by an unknown assailant while sledding with three neighborhood children. A small, dark-colored car was seen driving by the area moments after the shooting.

Mr. Harvard, whose eye winks erratically because of the injury, recalls hearing a cracking noise "like firecrackers. Then I got hit in the head with something. I thought it was a rock. I didn't know I was shot until I got to the hospital."

Police do not know if the bullet came from someone in the car, from a hunter or elsewhere. They do not believe that Mr. Harvard was the intended target.

Mr. Harvard had planned to join the Army after he graduates this spring from Oakland Mills High School and pursue his dream of becoming a chef -- a desire he has had from childhood.

"You can make a lot of money off food -- everybody's got to eat," he said.

But the bullet left him blind in his left eye, and the military refuses to accept him unless he regains his sight. The Army "said wait until you get better," Mr. Harvard said.

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