NRA locks in on Glendening's gun bill

Group prepares ads ridiculing proposal

March 30, 2000|By Michael Dresser and Thomas W. Waldron | Michael Dresser and Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

The National Rifle Association, alarmed at the prospect that Maryland could become the first state to require built-in gun locks, is preparing a television ad campaign ridiculing Gov. Parris N. Glendening and his gun safety legislation.

The governor is delighted.

Bill Powers, an NRA spokesman, said the organization has footage of Glendening fumbling with one of the locking devices at a recent public appearance amid laughter from onlookers. He said the footage might be used in an NRA ad campaign opposing the governor's bill, which is expected to come up for a vote in the House Judiciary Committee tomorrow.

"I haven't seen the Maryland ad. I don't know that it's finished yet," Powers said last night.

He said he did not know if a final decision had been made to run the ads. If the campaign goes forward, he said, the purpose would be "to point out the fallacy of the governor's position."

But gun rights activists said they have been told by the NRA that such a campaign is coming -- and soon.

Without waiting for an ad to run, Glendening issued a statement saying he regards the "outrageous attacks" as a "badge of honor."

"The NRA has opposed every reasonable, common-sense gun safety measure from the Brady bill to banning assault weapons to eliminating cop-killer bullets," the governor said.

The Glendening gun safety bill would require internal locks in all handguns sold in the state as of 2003. The NRA is opposing the bill, saying the locks would endanger the safety of gun owners.

A member of the Judiciary Committee allied with the NRA said she was told the ads would begin to run tomorrow morning.

Del. Carmen Amedori, a Carroll County Republican, said the ads would use the film clip of Glendening and would carry a message urging NRA supporters to call the office of House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr.

"No investment can be too much because of what's at stake," Amedori said. She said she hoped Taylor would "pay attention to whoever calls."

Taylor, a Western Maryland Democrat, said he was not concerned about the prospect of his phone lines being tied up by gun enthusiasts. He said gun owners he has talked to in his district were not worried about the legislation after the provisions of the compromise bill passed Monday by the Senate were explained to them.

Jim Purtilo, who publishes a gun-rights newsletter called Tripwire, compared the ad to "America's Funniest Home Videos." He expressed confidence that the NRA has a winner on its hands.

"That's something I hope would have an impact on people," Purtilo said. "That's an eye-opener."

The footage shows Glendening at a Silver Spring news conference attempting to demonstrate the use of one of the locks his bill would require.

With the cameras running, Glendening tried in vain several times to remove the locking magazine from a 40-caliber Glock. He finally needed a reminder from police that he had to push a button to release the safety,

During the Senate debate, opponents seized on the governor's difficulty as proof that the locks are too complicated for people who might need their guns to defend themselves. Glendening spokesman Michael Morrill countered that the governor was not unlocking the gun as if to fire it, but just removing the magazine.

"The lock worked perfectly," Morrill said.

If gun rights supporters were enthusiastic about the prospect of embarrassing Glendening, his aides were gleeful at the prospect of being attacked by the NRA.

"This has made my day," chortled Morrill.

Over the years, the NRA has not spent large amounts of money on ads in Maryland -- with one major exception.

In 1988, the group contributed about $6 million to an unsuccessful referendum effort to overturn the state's ban on so-called "Saturday night specials" -- small, cheap, easily concealed handguns. Voters approved the ban by a wide margin.

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