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Mooney's gun bill quashed

March 13, 2002|BY LAURA ERNDE

Advocates of both gun control and gun rights were disappointed when a Maryland Senate committee killed virtually all of their proposed legislation Tuesday.

Among the casualties was a bill by Sen. Alex X. Mooney to give domestic violence victims the right to carry handguns.

"I had very much hoped we would be able to have a reasonable debate," said Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington.

Judicial Proceedings Committee Chairman Sen. Walter M. Baker, D-Eastern Shore, said he was afraid gun rights bills such as Mooney's would become "Christmas trees" if they got to the Senate floor. In other words, other senators would try to tack on gun control provisions.

"In a more calm atmosphere we can work on these bills," Baker said.

Mooney said he believes everyone should have the right to carry a firearm, but he introduced his bill thinking it might be acceptable to his more liberal colleagues since it involved women's rights.

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"We want to allow women to protect themselves," he said.

A Millersville, Md., woman who works with victims of domestic violence testified in favor of the bill.

"If your life is in danger, you should have some right to protection," Louise Greenfield said.

The Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence, along with several law enforcement groups, opposed the idea of introducing a gun into an already volatile situation.

"This bill has the potential for escalating a domestic violence situation rather than protecting the victim," according to a prepared statement from the Baltimore County Police Department.

Other opponents noted that victims of domestic violence can get a handgun permit after a background check.

Mooney said he was surprised by their arguments.

"It's amazing they don't think an individual woman is competent enough to use a gun to defend themselves," Mooney said.

In addition to Mooney's bill, the committee killed bills that would have:

- Increased the penalties for people who leave guns where children find them. Right now there's a $1,000 fine. The proposal would have increased the fine to $5,000 and added jail time of up to five years.

- Given retired law enforcement and correctional officers the right to carry handguns.

- Banned new firearms dealers from setting up shop next to homes.

- Amended the Maryland Constitution to give citizens the right to keep and bear arms.

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