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Assault weapon ban high on Schaefer's list


PRINCETON, N.J. -- After watching a New Jersey state trooper use three semiautomatic weapons to blow away targets filled with red-dyed water, Gov. William Donald Schaefer vowed yesterday to reintroduce legislation to ban assault weapons in Maryland.

Mr. Schaefer, in Princeton to attend the 84th annual National Governors' Association meeting, said if his effort fails again in 1993 as it did this year and last, he will try again in his final legislative session in 1994.

"We'll be back," Mr. Schaefer said. "As long as I'm in office, we'll have an assault gun proposal before the legislature."

The governor's comments came as he joined New Jersey Gov. James J. Florio and Hawaii Gov. John Waihee III at the firearms demonstration at a state police firing range about 25 miles southwest of Princeton. Mr. Florio, a Democrat, is in a bitter fight with the Republican-controlled New Jersey Legislature over an assault weapons ban he signed into law in 1990. The state Senate voted 28-9 yesterday for a bill that would abolish the ban on semiautomatic weapons except for two models well-known to the public: the Uzi and the AK-47.

Mr. Florio plans to issue a conditional veto of the bill within the next 45 days that would reinstate the ban and call for a non-binding referendum on the issue. But the Republican margin was one vote more than needed to override a veto.

The Republican alternative, backed by the National Rifle Association, was touted by its proponents as an anti-crime bill. It would increase penalties for carrying guns near schools, or for the use of guns in drug crimes. "We're not afraid of the outcome [of a referendum]," said Richard Manning, who represents the NRA in both New Jersey and Maryland. The new gun law, he said, "takes the focus away from honest citizens and focuses it on criminals."

Mr. Florio, when asked if he considered the measure an anti-crime bill, replied: "Give me a break! To say that making these things more available is somehow inhibiting crime is incredible."

The demonstration included the firing of an Uzi, an AK-47, and a Tec-9 on a series of milk carton targets. As television cameras rolled, most virtually exploded upon impact, gushing red water into the air.

Mr. Waihee, a Democrat, said all three weapons would be outlawed under a new law in Hawaii that bans assault pistols and any magazine that is capable of holding more than 10 rounds. The Tec-9 fired yesterday had a 30-round clip and the Uzi had a 25-round clip.

Mr. Schaefer said that when he reintroduces an assault weapons bill in Maryland next year, he, too, may have to "try something new," although he said he did not know what. This year, he proposed a ban on 39 assault weapons. Although his aides said they would cut the list to 15 to gain support, the bill failed.

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