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Md. House committee hears 12 gun bills

March 09, 2006|by TAMELA BAKER

ANNAPOLIS - Friends and foes of gun control spent hours Wednesday in a sometimes series of hearings on bills designed to either restrict or expand gun ownership in Maryland.

The House Judiciary Committee heard 12 bills, ranging from repealing requirements for safety devices on handguns sold in the state to banning assault weapons.

The hearings were briefly interrupted when fire alarms went off in the new wing of the House office building, forcing legislators to evacuate.

Some witnesses made repeat performances, testifying on several bills. Speaking against a bill to tighten security measures at gun shops, Ray Givens of the Washington County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs told the committee he believed the real purpose of the bill was to make purchasing firearms more difficult by overregulating gun shops.

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He suggested the committee instead consider increasing penalties for burglary and breaking and entering, and "more aggressive prosecution of criminals."

On a bill for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to keep and bear arms in Maryland, mirroring the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, Givens urged the committee to "let Maryland become part of the (U.S.) Constitution."

Other bills under consideration would:

Prohibit a person convicted of a crime of violence from possessing a firearm while on conditional release from confinement.

Require owners of regulated firearms to report the loss or theft of the firearm within 48 hours of discovery.

Make use of any firearm, other than one that could be concealed, in the commission of a crime of violence or a felony a misdemeanor - regardless of whether the firearm is operable.

Make it easier for women to get permits to carry a handgun.

Repeal the requirement that applicants to carry weapons must have "a good and substantial reason" for doing so.

Make out-of-state licenses to carry firearms valid in Maryland.

While both sides were vocal in their support or objection to the bills, written testimony submitted by police agencies revealed conflicting opinions.

The proposed assault weapons ban won support from the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association, but the Maryland State Police oppose it.

"This bill is not about traditional sidearms, hunting, collecting or self-defense," said testimony from the Chiefs of Police Association. "It is about assault or the potential assault of our residents and our police officers The weapons included in this legislation are superior to weapons carried by our patrol officers."

Testimony submitted by the Maryland State Police contended that "from 1990 to 2004, with the exception of the sniper shootings, very few homicides involved assault-type weapons There is no data to support a ban on assault weapons."

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