Harford council wants to legalize sale of stun guns

Handguns and assault rifles are readily available for sale in Harford County, but Tasers or stun guns? Sorry.

A new county bill, however, could make it legal for stun guns, or "electronic control devices," to be sold alongside other weapons in Harford.

The council introduced the bill, No. 14-4, at its Tuesday meeting.

Councilman Joe Woods, who owns a gun shop in Bel Air, said he has been pushing to legalize stun guns for a few years, even though he would not be able to vote on the bill because of an obvious conflict of interest.

"Everyone around us is selling them," Woods said after the meeting.

"Honestly, I didn't know it was illegal in Harford County," he said.

Woods explained that he found out about the law three years ago, when members of the Bel Air Police Department came to his store trying to buy cartridges for Tasers.

He was surprised to learn he was not allowed to sell them.

The legislation by Councilman Jim McMahan, who Woods said received a flood of e-mails after the recent shooting at the Mall in Columbia.

Carrying a Taser or stun gun was legalized by the state in 2009.

Harford's law would allow anyone who meets the standard state requirements for possessing a stun gun to have one.

A hearing on the bill will be held at 7 p.m. on March 18.

Zoning changes

The council passed a bill Tuesday allowing a bundle of supposedly minor zoning changes, some which have been criticized as possibly encouraging more development.

The cricisms were leveled by a few residents and community leaders during a public hearing on the legislation earlier this month.

The legislation halves the amount of land required for exemption from forest conservation guidelines and allows a waiver for an applicant demonstrating hardship.

It also allows a variety of changes dealing with "cottage houses" and temporary signs.

The council approved the bill unanimously, and Councilman Dick Slutzky defended the legislation as merely clarifying existing county forest conservation law.

"The only revision to the current law... is that the act will now include a more specific process which must be followed and a criteria that must be met to justify the removal of the trees based on the state forest removal statute," Councilman Dick Slutzky said in defense of the most controversial change.

Some residents wanted to see a variance process instead of a waiver for exemptions to the conservation rules.

Slutzky said other counties all have waivers for this part of their codes and the way it is used, waivers and variances are interchangeable.

He said requiring the council to sit as a zoning board of appeals for every tree that needs to be cut down would be a "tremendous burden."

School conflicts

The council challenged Harford County Public Schools budget director Ed Fields on a reguest for a fund transfer of $206,500 to fund several software upgrades.

Councilmen Joe Woods and Dion Guthrie voted against the transfer.

Woods questioned why the expense was not foreseen, while Guthrie said he has a problem upgrading "brick-and-mortar things" when abridged school bus routes and "pay-to-play" sports policies remain issues.

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