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Gun law agreement reached

February 22, 2001

Gun law agreement reached



By LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer


ANNAPOLIS - House Speaker Casper Taylor announced a deal Wednesday to appease gun dealers and sportspeople who claim that Maryland's new gun law led to a de facto gun ban.

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When the state in October began requiring handguns to be shipped with shell casings for ballistic fingerprinting purposes, some gun manufacturers stopped shipping to Maryland.

The law was not intended to be a handgun ban, but had the same result, said Taylor, D-Allegany.

To solve the problem, Maryland State Police will temporarily conduct the ballistics tests for $20 per gun. The six-month program is designed to give gun manufacturers more time to comply with the law, Taylor said.

The National Rifle Association praised Taylor's solution.

"It is clear that the speaker has taken this problem very seriously and he has worked tirelessly to reverse what had predictably become a ban," said NRA spokesman Greg Costa.

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Not all gun rights advocates were satisfied with the solution. Jim Purtilo of Tripwire, a Maryland gun-rights activist newsletter, questioned whether the shell casings collected under the program will stand up in court.

Several local lawmakers who voted against the bill last year said they would rather see the state repeal the ballistic fingerprint requirement.

"I think we went too far last year," said Del. Bob McKee, R-Washington.

Del. Chris Shank, R-Washington, said delegates acknowledged there were problems with the bill before it passed, but refused to make any changes for fear of a Senate filibuster.

"We should have killed the bill last year," he said.

Del. Kevin Kelly, D-Allegany/Garrett, has sponsored a bill to repeal the ballistic fingerprint law.

Taylor said the program is worthy because it gives law enforcement another tool to solve crimes.

Maryland State Police will use a $250,000 state grant to hire six retired law enforcement officers to travel the state and conduct the tests beginning within the next two months, said State Police Col. David B. Mitchell. The $20 fee will be used to pay back the state grant.

The shell casings will be put in a small envelope, sealed, signed and added to the state's database of shell casings, Mitchell said.

When the six-month program ends, gun manufacturers should be able to comply with the law by submitting their own shell casings, he said.

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