Three delegates move to broaden Md. gun law

Legislation would help keep all firearms away from criminals, they say

January 31, 2000|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

Amid a national outcry for safer guns and stricter legislation, three state delegates from rural Maryland counties have introduced legislation they say will help keep all firearms, including sporting rifles, shotguns and antique guns, out of the hands of violent criminals.

And the three -- Republicans Carmen Amedori and Joseph M. Getty of Carroll County, and Anthony J. O'Donnell of St. Mary's and Calvert counties -- are proposing stiffer mandatory sentences for previously convicted violent offenders caught possessing the weapons.

The lawmakers say their legislation would broaden the scope of current gun laws in Maryland, bringing them more closely in line with federal laws.

"It's common-sense legislation and appeals to common-sense legislators," said Amedori. "If violent criminals are precluded from having these firearms, and they are convicted for possession of them, we'll get the murderers, robbers, carjackers and those who attempt such crimes off the streets."

Maryland law forbids the use of "regulated firearms" -- including handguns and assault weapons -- in the commission of a crime. The first bill would extend the law to include long-barreled weapons, antique guns, short-barreled rifles and shotguns.

The second bill would set penalties of up to 20 years in prison -- five years mandatory and without parole -- for previously convicted violent offenders who violate gun possession laws. The bill would include those convicted of offenses that carry penalties of more than two years.

Though neither bill has received a hearing, lawmakers have voiced general support for strong penalties against violent criminals who violate gun possession laws. Gov. Parris N. Glendening has proposed mandatory sentences for such violators.

Amedori said a number of Democrats in the House of Delegates, including Diane DeCarlo and Michael H. Weir of Baltimore and Harford counties, and Bennett Bozman of Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester counties, support the bills.

Carroll County State's Attorney Jerry F. Barnes -- who is Amedori's husband -- said the bills are "very similar" to federal laws, which also ban possession of ammunition by convicted violent offenders.

But Ridge Park, owner of Hampstead Gun and Outdoor Supply Co. Inc. in northern Carroll County, called the proposed bills "an exercise in futility."

Park said Maryland has enough gun laws and that until they are strictly enforced, criminals will continue to commit violent crimes.

"Maryland has a five-year mandatory sentence, but it's never used," Park said of existing handgun laws. "If [legislators] would take away plea bargaining, which lets criminals avoid mandatory five-year sentences, it might do some good."

Dennis Fusaro, director of state legislation for the Virginia-based Gun Owners of America, had not seen the proposed gun bills for Maryland but said, "It sounds like feel-good legislation. I don't see the point [of adding sporting rifles and shotguns to a list of banned weapons]."

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