Assault weapons ban bill dropped
Next up is measure to keep guns from some convicted of drunken driving
ANNAPOLIS The sponsor of a proposal to ban assault weapons withdrew his bill from the Maryland Senate this week, acknowledging the measure lacked enough support to get the legislation out of committee.
"I don't see wasting all the time and resources on it this year when I see it going nowhere," said Sen. Mike Lenett (D-Dist. 19) of Silver Spring.
The ban would need to first pass the 11-member Judicial Proceedings Committee, where two conservative Democrats and four Republicans would block its passage.
Several gun-related bills have been proposed for this General Assembly, including one that would prevent a person from owning a handgun if they have been convicted of two drunken-driving offenses over a five-year period. Another measure would prohibit firearms, knives or deadly weapons on the campuses of public colleges.
Conversely, a gun rights advocate has proposed making it easier for Marylanders to get permits to carry firearms. Del. B. Daniel Riley said the measure would save lives.
"If one person benefits from this bill, the criminal element doesn't know who that one person is," said Riley (D-Dist. 34A) of Edgewood.
Maryland requires handgun owners to pass a training course, undergo a criminal background check and submit to a mental health evaluation.
If those are passed, the applicant still faces subjective criteria on whether the Maryland State Police decides to issue the permit.
Riley's bill, which has 10 Democratic and 28 Republican co-sponsors, would eliminate that portion of the licensing procedure.
The bill has been proposed in previous sessions and got its first vote in the House Judiciary Committee last year. It failed, 13-9.
"Maybe in an election year, we can change some votes," Riley said.
Paul Dembowski, president of Maryland Shall Issue, said it still could be an uphill fight to passage.
"It's going to take a long process of educating the legislators. If we can't educate, then replacing them through the election process," he said.
Rather than take on the assault weapons ban, members of the Judicial Proceedings Committee decided to pursue the Firearm Safety Act of 2010, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said.
The act's lead sponsor is JPR Chairman Brian E. Frosh.
"It has a good sponsor," Miller joked. And he noted the House bill's lead sponsor is Del. Samuel I. "Sandy" Rosenberg, the vice chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. "Between the two of them, maybe they can move a bill."
The bill would prohibit individuals from owning a handgun if they have had two drunken-driving convictions in five years. The bill also adds reporting requirements to gun shop owners.
"The bill is protective of people who are law-abiding citizens. It keeps guns out of the hands of people who are prone to commit violence," said Frosh (D-Dist. 16) of Bethesda.
"We already have laws that exceed above or beyond every other state in the entire country. We see this as a further attempt to infringe on the lawful possession of these firearms," he said.
One of the fears is a provision that new gun shop inspections would be paid for by a fee set by state police. With no upper limit, the fee could put shops out of business, Dembowski said.
Gun rights advocates are protesting the measure, carpet-bombing the inboxes of legislators with arguments against the bill.
One of the lawmakers hit with the e-mail barrage is Del. Sally Y. Jameson (D-Dist. 28) of Bryantown. She said she's already seen 1,000 e-mails on the bill, few from her district.
And as a member of the Economic Matters Committee, she wouldn't see the bill unless is passes the Judiciary Committee and makes it to the House floor.
Dembowski said he tells his members to contact committee members and their own legislators.
"The delegates and senators are so approachable communications-wise, people tend to conflate a lot of that together," he said.
Frosh, however, said the concerns about the bill are overblown.
"They're not in touch with reality," he said.
But Dembowski said that drunken-driving convictions usually don't carry penalties as severe as the provision related to firearms.