Pass the gun bills


After managing to put off the contentious issue of gun control last week, the General Assembly now seems set to confront the matter squarely. There are several items on lawmakers' agenda this year, chief of which are two bills backed by Governor Schaefer that would ban the sale of military-style assault weapons and require guns to be kept under lock and key in situations where minors might have access to them. Both bills should become law.

The gun lobby never tires of arguing that assault weapons are involved in just a fraction of violent crimes, but the fact is, the proliferation of this class of firearms represents a growing danger to Maryland citizens. Some 30,000 such weapons have already been sold in Maryland. Mind you, these guns have no legitimate self-defense, hunting or sporting purpose. They are simply macho toys -- and deadly ones. In criminal hands their potential for murder and mayhem is enormous.

The so-called "gun lock" bill is aimed at reducing the appalling level of slaughter among teens, who most often acquire weapons as a result of adult negligence. Generally, the adult owners of these weapons don't even know their guns have been taken until a tragedy occurs. A law requiring gun owners to guard against such neglect -- and making them liable for damages caused by that negligence -- would be a powerful incentive for owners to become more responsible.

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