House gun bill would have been a step backward Rep...


June 30, 1999

House gun bill would have been a step backward

Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s letter, "House gun bill wasn't perfect, but did merit support" (June 25), distorted his June 18 vote on the controversial House gun control bill. Readers were led to believe that Mr. Ehrlich voted for reasonable controls on guns and, in his own words, for "intelligent public safety legislation."

In fact, what Congressman Ehrlich voted for was the Dingell amendment to the Senate bill, an amendment backed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and sponsored by former NRA board member Rep. John Dingell of Michigan.

That amendment was designed to gut the Senate bill that would have closed the loophole concerning background checks for firearms purchases at gun shows.

The Dingell amendment would have required those checks to be completed within 24 hours. Since most gun shows are on weekends, when law enforcement agencies have limited staff, thousands of purchasers -- who with more time would be identified as felons or members of other groups prohibited from buying guns -- would have easily obtained guns.

How the Congressman can believe that this would "keep guns out of the hands of felons, juveniles and the mentally ill" is anybody's guess.

On the other hand, Mr. Ehrlich voted against an amendment sponsored by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy that required those who purchase firearms at gun shows to undergo the same background checks at gun shows they would face if they bought the firearm from a federally licensed gun dealer.

Mr. Ehrlich's letter portrayed the majority of Maryland's congressional delegation, who voted for the McCarthy amendment, as being culpable for killing a bill he called "a step forward."

In actuality, the Dingell amendment would have weakened current laws regarding background checks, which now allow federal authorities three business days to complete these checks, by reducing that time to 24 hours.

I call that a step backward.

Ginni Wolf, Baltimore

The writer is executive director of Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse Inc.

Serving the gun lobby rather than the people

At the end of Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s lengthy explanation in his letter for his vote on the disgraceful GOP-sponsored "gun control" bill ("House gun bill wasn't perfect, but did merit support," June 25), The Sun noted that he represents "Maryland's 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

You should have added, "and lives in the back pocket of the National Rifle Association."

George Friedman, Towson

A political partisan who hides behind `the children'

I read with interest Vincent DeMarco's partisan attack on Robert Ehrlich's recent vote on sensible gun legislation in the House of Representatives ("Doing gun lobby's business will hurt politicians," letters, June 18). What I find particular disturbing, even disgusting, is that Mr. DeMarco failed to acknowledge the role Democrats played in defeating this legislation.

In radio ad attacks on Republicans who opposed Gov. Parris Glendening's s tobacco tax legislation, Mr. DeMarco's Maryland Children's Initiative similarly failed to mention the Democrats who opposed the governor's bill.

This time, he conveniently overlooked the fact that this gun amendment was sponsored by a Democrat and supported by many moderate House Democrats.

Mr. DeMarco claims to be working "for the children" in his efforts on behalf of the Maryland Children's Initiative. But he appears to be hiding behind the children to further his own partisan political agenda.

Next time he should try telling the whole story.

R. Strevig, Hampstead

Gun rights for militia, not for private citizens

Nicholas Varga's letter about how to interpret the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, "Weighing merits of Second Amendment arguments," (June 26) was a welcome breath of lucidity.

I thoroughly agree with Mr. Varga "no word may be discounted, but all must be given due weight." I'd like to call attention to the word "people" in the Second Amendment's phrase "the right of the people to keep and bear arms."

"People" is a collective noun that relates to the phrase "well-regulated militia." "Militia" is also a collective noun; the militia is made up of the people.

The Framers of the Constitution, probably better than a similar body today, knew how to handle the English language.

If they had meant that private individuals were to have a constitutional right to own guns, they would not have constructed the sentence so that the the right to bear arms relates to the "well-regulated militia" phrase; and, instead of "the right of the people," they would have said, "the right of persons."

Kit Brown, Bel Air

Slavery and freedom in 19th-century Maryland

Scott Shane's informative article ("The secret history of the city slave trade," Perspective, June 20) notes that in Maryland, slaves outnumbered free blacks at the time of the Civil War.

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