Banning Assault Weapons


Good for Gov. William Donald Schaefer. In New Jersey for a meeting of the National Governors' Association, he took one look at a police demonstration of the terrible destructiveness of semi-automatic assault weapons and vowed to try again and, if necessary, still again, to get a ban on such weapons in Maryland.

The General Assembly would not give him such a ban this year. Wouldn't even vote on it. The governor said in New Jersey that he'd try again in 1993 and, if that fails, in 1994, his last year in office. "As long as I'm in office I'll have an assault gun proposal before the legislature," he said.

The weapons-of-mass-destruction lobby claims the tide is running in its favor. It cites New Jersey as proof. And, in fact, in that state the legislature recently repealed a tough ban on the sale and possession of assault weapons. But there's more to the New Jersey story than the gun lobbyists and their supporters would have the public know.

For one thing, this legislature was swept into office in a tax revolt. Its weapons vote was in response to special-interest pressure, not to a grass roots mandate to repeal the ban.

For another, the repeal was dressed up as an anti-crime bill, which would still ban the most dangerous weapons, such as the Uzi and the AK-47, while legalizing others. The repeal also attracted some votes by making schools gun-free zones. But it now appears that the way the new legislation was written, AK-47s will not be banned, nor will Uzi types, and most weapons will be legal in school zones after all.

New Jersey Gov. Jim Florio has vowed to veto the repeal, after first educating the public to its flaws. We hope he succeeds and his veto is upheld. But even if not, Governor Schaefer would be right to fight for a ban in Maryland next year.

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