Gov. William Donald Schaefer tried to make a point by aiming an assault pistol at a reporter. He ended up, figuratively speaking, shooting himself in the foot.
Angered by the governor's casual pointing of an unloaded MAC-11 at an Associated Press reporter on Monday, a Maryland gun dealers group yesterday reversed its stand and decided to oppose one of Mr. Schaefer's gun control measures.
"This definitely changed the dealers' position. We can no longer support it," said Sanford M. Abrams, vice president of the Maryland Licensed Firearms Association, a 100-member group that initially backed an administration measure designed to curb the illegal sale of regulated firearms at gun shows.
Mr. Abrams told the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee that he received about 20 complaints from members after the incident, which occurred at a news conference Mr. Schaefer held on another of his gun control bills, a proposed ban on 15 types of semiautomatic assault pistols.
Mr. Abrams said no responsible gun owner would ever point a weapon at a person. Other gun owners criticized the governor this week, saying that his action amounted to assault with a deadly weapon.
The association's board voted 9-2 Tuesday against the measure, said Mr. Abrams.
"Ludicrous. Absolutely ludicrous," said David S. Iannucci, the governor's chief lobbyist, outside the hearing room. "The bill should be considered on its merits."
The bill would remove a loophole in the state law. While licensed dealers must adhere to Maryland law regulating gun transactions, private dealers at gun shows can sell firearms without the restrictions of a required background check and seven-day waiting period. The association supported the bill because it would create a "level playing field" for dealers and private collectors, said Mr. Abrams.
Under the measure, those selling at gun shows who are not dealers would have to get a temporary license and abide by state law.
Police officials said those purporting to be private collectors are using video displays and selling numerous weapons, from handguns to assault rifles, at the estimated 40 gun shows held in Maryland each year. About 5 percent of those selling are private collectors, they said.
State Police Superintendent Larry W. Tolliver said the private collectors could sell guns to convicted criminals or those with mental illnesses, people who otherwise would be barred by law from owning a gun.
But gun groups and several gun owners opposed the measure, fearing that it would lead to a ban on all private sales of guns or an eventual prohibition of weapons.
While Mr. Iannucci said he is hopeful about the chances for the gun show bill, it faces an uncertain fate. Committee Chairman Walter Baker, D-Cecil, a staunch pro-gun lawmaker, said he is concerned that if the committee approves the bill, amendments he opposes may be added on the Senate floor.
"We have made the pledge to him we will not support any floor amendments to the gun show bill," said Mr. Iannucci. "He's aware of that."