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Md. Senate committee kills assault weapons ban

April 03, 2004|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Maryland gun rights activists achieved a victory Friday when a proposed assault weapons ban was defeated 6-5 by a state Senate committee.

Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, helped kill the bill, which would have continued a federal assault weapons ban that's set to expire Sept. 13.

"It doesn't make any sense to do it when, as the state police said, most crimes are committed with handguns," he said.

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Steve Palmer, president of the Washington County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, said he was pleased by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee's action.

He and other proponents of gun rights came to Annapolis by the hundreds earlier this legislative session to testify in opposition.

"It was a back-door attempt to restrict firearms ownership even more in Maryland," Palmer said.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Rob Garagiola, D-Montgomery, sought to ban 19 semi-automatic weapons that currently are outlawed by the federal government.

"This is really our last opportunity, and on Sept. 14, you're going to be able to go buy the weapons on this list," he said. Those include the AK-47, Uzi and the Street Sweeper, he said.

Since the federal ban was enacted in 1994, the use of assault weapons in crimes has gone down, he argued.

"To me, this is not about taking away all kinds of guns," Garagiola said. "It's about where we draw the line about what guns should be legally possessed by civilians."

Palmer said it would have prevented law-abiding citizens from buying guns for target practice and hunting.

Sen. John Giannetti, D-Prince George's, represented the swing vote that killed the bill.

After being lobbied heavily by both sides, Gov. Robert Ehrlich persuaded him to vote no.

"Obviously, it was a tough decision-making process. It's my firm belief it would never become law," he said, referring to Ehrlich's likely veto.

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