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Gun bill advances

March 23, 2000|By LAURA ERNDE

ANNAPOLIS - Going toe to toe with the president of the Maryland Senate, Sen. Alex X. Mooney and other lawmakers lost a battle to stop gun control legislation from moving forward Thursday.

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They vowed to continue their fight today with a possible filibuster.

The Senate voted Thursday to begin debate on a bill that would make Maryland the first state to require manufacturers to build locking devices into all new handguns.

Using a rare, parliamentary maneuver, Senate leaders Thursday brought Gov. Parris Glendening's childproof gun bill to the floor on a 26-19 vote. The bill had been languishing in the conservative Judicial Proceedings Committee.

Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, stood up and asked to be recognized by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's/Calvert.

Citing another rule, Mooney argued 32 votes were required to move the bill to the Senate floor.

When Miller rejected the argument, Mooney and other Republicans demanded the decision be appealed.

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Miller ignored them, but each time he called for a vote, Mooney and other Republicans stood up and shouted "Mr. President."

They continued to argue that the rules were being violated, but Miller didn't budge.

"It's a totally frivolous appeal," Miller said.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, also opposed the move and said he plans to vote against the legislation.

"My constituents largely believe in their constitutional amendment rights and I don't intend to collapse on them," Munson said.

The debate over the details of the legislation will continue today.

The main effect of the bill would be to prevent new handguns from being sold in Maryland beginning Jan. 1, 2003, unless they are equipped with a built-in locking device. That could be either a mechanical lock or a "smart gun" electronic lock that allows the weapon to be fired only by an authorized user.

Glendening's bill originally would have required a mechanical lock by 2002 and an electronic locking system by 2003. He agreed to back off from the "smart gun" technology in negotiations with Senate leaders.

Glendening maintains it would be the strongest anti-gun legislation in the country.

Republicans said Thursday's move circumvented the legislature's tradition of a strong committee system.

"The people of Washington County elected me to come down here and fight for what I believe in. The rules were violated. The procedures were violated. This just shows that Maryland is more like a one-party state," Mooney said.

Miller said he could have used other rules to move the bill forward, but chose the one he thought gave the most deference to the committee system.

"A minority of senators has been bottling up a piece of legislation that the whole Senate should have an opportunity to debate," said Sen. Chris Van Hollen Jr., D-Montgomery.

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