Volunteers give time for new gun control bill


They've explained repeatedly to Cyrus Alston that he was a teen-ager on the dance floor of a local nightclub when he was shot in the head. "That might have been," Mr. Alston, 28, says pleasantly. "I don't remember. I just go by what I'm told."

The bullet entered the back of his skull, just above the neck, robbing him of his memory, leaving his left side weak, ending his dreams for the future.

"I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time," Mr. Alston says.

Yesterday, Mr. Alston was among the volunteers helping stuff envelopes in a fund-raising appeal for Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse, which is lobbying for passage of a new gun control law in the 1994 General Assembly.

The volunteers were working at the Fehsenfeld Center, a program for brain-injured adults at the League, which provides services for people with disabilities on Cold Spring Lane in Baltimore. Of about 40 people in the Fehsenfeld program, about a dozen are gunshot victims, says Michele Hughes, the director. "We see the damage that handguns wreak every day."

Mr. Alston was an honor student in high school and a drummer in a band before a gunman walked into the disco that night 10 years ago and fired randomly. He remembers the blow, "like somebody hit me in the back of the head with a sledgehammer." He spent three months in a coma, months in physical therapy, years in rehabilitation.

His story is not unique in the Fehsenfeld program. It includes a man shot as he walked out of a grocery store and a man shot while working on a car in his back yard, said Michele

Wojciechowski, a spokeswoman for the League. "It's not just people on the street or people involved with drugs."

The gun control measure proposed by Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse would require a Marylander to pass a safety test and acquire a license before buying a handgun or ammunition.

State residents would be limited to two handgun purchases a year and could own no more than 10 handguns overall unless they received special permission from the state police.

No one under the age of 21 would be permitted to own a handgun, and anyone who sold one to an unlicensed person would be liable for any damages caused by that weapon.

The bill is expected to face strong opposition in the legislature. But David Payne, shot in the head three years ago, backs the measure and was among the volunteers at the League yesterday. "Something's got to be done," he says. "You can't leave it the way it is."

Tom Anderson, 24, was also at work stuffing envelopes.

Shot five years ago in a fight with his brother, Mr. Anderson still has problems speaking but visits school groups to show them where a bullet creased his skull.

Vincent DeMarco, executive director of Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse, organized yesterday's volunteer effort. This week, he was at the White House to watch President Clinton sign the Brady bill.

The national gun control law was named for former White House press secretary James Brady, who was shot in the head in a 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan.

The volunteers at the League, Mr. DeMarco said, are "Maryland's Jim Bradys. I'm honored they're helping us with our mailing."

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