House leaders considering tax increases for Md. Panel votes to ban 38 assault weapons


ANNAPOLIS -- The House Judiciary Committee voted 13-9 yesterday to ban 38 specific semiautomatic "assault weapons" in Maryland and to permit the state's Handgun Roster Board to add copies of such weapons to the list.

In another close vote -- 12-10 -- the committee also passed out another bill that would make it a misdemeanor crime subject to a $1,000 fine to store a loaded firearm where a youngster 18 or under could gain access to it. The proposed law would not apply if the firearm was secured by a trigger lock or similar device.

The two bills, sponsored by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, now go to the full House of Delegates, where a floor fight on both is expected.

"We're not going to give it a free ride anywhere along the line," vowed Richard M. Manning, lobbyist for the National Rifle Association.

The proposed assault weapons ban passed over the objections of lawmakers who said there was little evidence such guns were being used in the vast majority of crimes. The bill, they said, is merely the latest attempt by gun opponents to ban all types of guns.

Delegate E. Farrell Maddox, D-Baltimore County, recalled the 1988 law that set up the Handgun Roster Board in an attempt to curtail the use of small, inexpensive handguns called "Saturday Night Specials."

"They said in '88, 'This is it. That's all we want to get rid of,' " Mr. Maddox said. "I ask you, what is next year's bill? This is only the tip of the iceberg."

But supporters said that with the proliferation of high-firepower military-style assault weapons among drug dealers and other criminals, police were increasingly outgunned and afraid. Committee Chairman John S. Arnick, D-Baltimore County, noted that in just the two weeks since the hearing on the bill, there had been three slayings in which assault weapons were thought to have been used.

The committee altered the Schaefer bill by shifting the proposed authority to add guns to the list from the state police superintendent to the Handgun Roster Board. At the urging of Delegate D. Bruce Poole, D-Washington, the panel also tightened restrictions on which types of guns the board could add to the list, limiting additions to a "copy, reproduction or imitation" of the 38 guns specifically listed.

Among the guns included on the list were: Uzi semiautomatic pistols, carbines and rifles; AK-47 style of semiautomatics; the Dragunov Chinese-made semiautomatic sniper rifle; and the Intratec Tec 9 and other Intratec weapons.

At Delegate Poole's suggestion, the committee also agreed to delete one gun, the Colt AR15 semiautomatic, from the administration's original list. Testimony from gun users indicated the AR15 was used in competitive target shooting, he said.

Sen. Walter M. Baker, D-Cecil, chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, which will consider the gun bills if they pass the House, said he could support a gun-by-gun ban but not a proposal that would give a bureaucratic board authority to add guns to the list.

The bill aimed at protecting children from gaining access to guns passed only after the committee reduced the crime from a felony to a misdemeanor, dropped the suggested fine from $5,000 to $1,000 and made other changes.

The measure would require gun dealers to post a sign saying it is unlawful to store an unlocked firearm where an unsupervised minor might reach it. The bill also requires the dealers to give or offer gun locks for sale.

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