State Senate passes bill on mandatory handgun locks

March 28, 2000|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

The Senate moved Maryland one step closer to adopting the most ambitious firearms safety law in the country yesterday as it passed Gov. Parris N. Glendening's bill to require that locks be built into any handgun sold in the state.

The 26-21 vote sends the legislation to the House of Delegates, where the governor hopes to persuade lawmakers to approve the bill without amendments that would send it back to the Senate.

Three suburban Republicans joined 23 Democrats in voting for the measure. Ten Democrats joined 11 Republicans in opposing the bill.

Glendening said it took "a lot of courage" for the Senate to pass a bill that would make Maryland the first state to require built-in locks. Any handgun sold in Maryland as of 2003 would have to be equipped with the locks.

"We have made history in this state by our leadership across the country," the governor said.

The vote occurred after four hours of debate during which conservative Republicans aired their dissatisfaction with the bill and the process that brought it to the Senate floor.

"What's the real goal here?" said Sen. Alex X. Mooney of Frederick County. "I believe, ladies and gentlemen, that it's to take away our Second Amendment rights."

Sen. Andrew P. Harris, a Baltimore County Republican, contended that the bill is an "empty shell" after the Senate eliminated what he called the "crown jewel" of the governor's plan: a provision that would have let the state require sophisticated Smart Gun technology as early as 2003. Such guns would use radio waves, fingerprint identification or other means to prevent unauthorized users from firing them.

That provision was dropped as part of a compromise between Glendening and Sen. Thomas V. Mike Miller, who engineered a rarely used maneuver that pulled the bill out of a conservative committee where it could not pass.

As the Senate debated the measure, Glendening continued to meet with members of the House Judiciary Committee in an effort to persuade them to accept the Senate bill as passed.

Some members of the committee are offended by the suggestion that they give up their chance to play a role in crafting the bill. But neither the governor nor House Speaker Casper R. Taylor wants amendments added that would send the bill back to the Senate for approval -- exposing the legislation to a possible late-session filibuster.

Eric Gally, lobbyist for Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse, said the bill's backers don't have the votes lined up.

"We've climbed the 50-foot fence, but there are three 30-foot fences left to go," he said.

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