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Sportsmen take aim at gun ban

February 04, 2004|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Washington County sportsmen will join hundreds of others who plan to descend on Annapolis next week to try to block major gun-control legislation.

"It's going to get quite crowded down there," said Steve Palmer, president of the Washington County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs.

Their target is legislation that would extend the rules of a federal assault weapons ban that is set to expire Sept. 13.

Palmer said wording of the proposed law is so vague that it could be used to ban guns used for legitimate purposes such as hunting and target shooting.

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He said more between 300 and 500 sportsmen from around the state will be in Annapolis for a public hearing, scheduled for next Tuesday.

Calling it "one of these politically correct, tree-hugging, feel-good measures in social engineering," Palmer said it won't reduce crime.

At a news conference in Annapolis Tuesday, Sen. Rob Garagiola, D-Montgomery, and other advocates tried to ease critics' fears, saying legal owners of weapons listed in the ban would not have to give them up.

The gun-control effort is gaining favor among lawmakers, nearly one-third of whom have signed on as co-sponsors.

Washington County lawmakers said they will oppose the legislation.

"I don't see how passing new gun-control measures is going to have any impact in reducing crime," said Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington.

Shank said there's a reason that the ban, in effect since 1994, is expiring.

"I don't see why Maryland has to rush to do this," he said.

Law enforcement officials said the ban has reduced crime.

The Department of Justice reported a 6.7 percent decrease in gun murders nationwide after the national ban was enacted, according to Ceasefire Maryland, which organized the news conference.

"This legislation is one of these things that is not academic," said Joe Vince, a former agent for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms who now is president of Frederick-based Crime Gun Solutions. "If this body does not act, we will end up with assault weapons in Maryland."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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