State must lead on control I am writing in support of...

SATURDAY MAILBOX

March 25, 2000

State must lead on control

I am writing in support of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's Gun Safety Act of 2000.

Several recent developments validate and support the need for that bill. The major development was the deal President Clinton struck with Smith & Wesson.

This pact amazingly mirrored the features of the governor's bill, even down to the exact timetable for built-in trigger locks and personalized guns.

Republican Gov. George Pataki of New York has also recently proposed a strong gun control bill.

The National Rifle Association's (NRA) recent actions also emphasize the need to support the bill.

NRA vice president Wayne LaPierre's comment that Bill Clinton "tolerates gun deaths to further his agenda" was widely disavowed by the group's Republican allies and by representatives of the gun industry.

However, the NRA still has a stranglehold on many Republicans. It is up to Maryland to show leadership on gun control.

During the state Senate hearings on the governor's bill a senator asked "why should Maryland be guinea pigs" for this legislation.

He should have been asking how Maryland could become a leader with this bill.

The Sun's editorial "A silence that kills" (March 19) asked Marylanders to speak up about travesties in the state's criminal justice system.

Marylanders should be just as angry and vocal in support of the governor's efforts to make us all safer through his gun safety proposal.

Fred Davis Pasadena

The writer is president of the education fund of Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse.

Change violent culture

It is quite feasible to incorporate "personalized" locking mechanisms into firearms.

While not a journeyman's engineering exercise, it should be a relatively easy accomplishment, when viewed against the backdrop of present day technology.

The economic possibilities are there as well. Smith & Wesson knows that "smart guns" are smart business.

It is illogical to expect that such devices will not save lives -- and take lives as well, as some legitimate gun-owners fail in the struggle to "unlock" their gun in the few precious seconds before the assailant's violence occurs.

It is logical as well, even with smart guns required, to expect that nothing will really change for a long time.

There are millions and millions of unsafe guns in private ownership and guns have a very long shelf life.

It is much easier for politicians to campaign for gunlocks than to ask us to create a culture that abhors violence and ostracizes those who commit it.

It is much easier to ask the courts and law enforcement officers to focus their energy on more background checks and new laws than to launch a robust re-engineering of a clearly broken legal system -- and create one that is swift, coherent and consistent in its response to the daily carnage.

It is much easier for academics and medical and social professionals to support bans and restrictions on firearm ownership than to study the complex socio-economic conditions that result in children killing children and propose effective interventions.

It is much easier for many of us to maintain our callous apathy, than to get off the couch and participate in our communities' problem-solving.

It is much easier for us all to hold the glittering gun safety devise -- once designed -- high in smug celebration than to soberly admit that once again, we have only changed a thing, and not our people.

Steven Woods

Owings Mills

Laws don't fix problem

Gov. Parris N. Glendening's bill to mandate "smart gun" technology flies in the face of the facts.

Fact one: The governor has been told by the firearms industry that it will be impossible to meet his deadline.

Simply passing a legislative timetable cannot make the technology happen. If it could, we could have a cure for cancer -- all we would have to do is mandate it.

Fact two: Colt Manufacturing Co., which pioneered the smart gun concept and is the only company to produce a prototype has run out of research money and shut down the division established to design and market its smart gun. There will be no "smart gun" from Colt.

Fact three: The governor's bill mandates internal locking devices by 2002 and smart gun electronics by 2003. Why would a manufacturer bother to develop an internal lock only to have it banned in Maryland just one year later?

And, if this technology is being designed for use by police agencies, why are police exempted from the proposed law, even though 15 percent of police officers killed on duty are murdered with their own service firearm?

Perhaps Col. David Mitchell, the State Police superintendent, gave the answer in a recent television debate. He said police are exempt for budgetary reasons (the extra cost would be too expensive) and because of the abuse that police officers' firearms undergo.

If these smart guns are too expensive and unreliable for the police, why must the average citizen be forced to accept this technology?

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