Baltimore County executive backs measure to expand law on handguns

February 25, 2005|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

In the aftermath of the shotgun killing of a popular private school educator, Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. said he plans to lobby for a General Assembly bill that would add rifles and shotguns to a law that requires additional penalties for the use of a handgun in a violent crime or felony.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Larry E. Haines, a Republican who represents parts of Carroll and Baltimore counties, would subject offenders who use any kind of firearm in certain crimes to a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison without parole and a maximum penalty of 20 years.

Haines has sponsored the measure in each of the last two legislative sessions, but the bill never made it out of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

Smith said yesterday that he learned of what he considers a gap in the existing law while talking with law enforcement officials after the death of William A. Bassett, a science teacher and dean of faculty at St. Paul's School who was fatally shot during a botched robbery at Towson Town Center on Feb. 18.

Offenders who used shotguns and rifles in felonies and violent crimes are not subject to the stiffer penalties, yet those guns accounted for nearly 45 percent of firearms seized in the county last year by precinct-based police units that work on drug cases, Smith said.

Smith said he learned of Haines' bill during a meeting this week with Baltimore County senators. Smith said he and Baltimore County Police Chief Terrence B. Sheridan plan to testify on behalf of the bill during a committee hearing on Tuesday.

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