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Gun vote showed back-room politics at its worst

The chicanery in the Maryland House of Delegates' Judiciary Committee last week was shameful ("Gun bill advances to floor of House," March 30).

We watched the vote count on Eastern Shore Republican Del. Michael Smigiel's amendment to hold criminals responsible for their violent acts with firearms. What we saw was abandonment of any pretext of democratic process and a conscious choice by lawmakers to protect criminals over law-abiding citizens. It was shameful.

Delegate Smigiel's amendment would have toughened the penalties for criminals using guns in violent crimes, and it should have been a no-brainer. With all the clamor to do something about violent crime, shouldn't the Firearm Safety Act have included something addressing criminals' use of firearms?

Sadly, other than punishing law-abiding citizens' ability to defend themselves, there seemed no stomach for dealing with the people who actually commit the crimes.

The amendment passed the combined Judiciary and Health and Government Operations committees with a clear vote count, and for the first time, the gun control bill would specifically target criminals. However, the leadership colluded to break the parliamentary rules, arm-twist members and force a second vote. This time the amendment failed.

The General Assembly is showing itself to be a radically undemocratic organization bent on pushing its own agenda, and the citizens be damned. Naked, out-of-control power has usurped citizens' rights. It was an embarrassment for the General Assembly and the once "Free State" of Maryland.

Melvin Barnhart, Randallstown

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