Howard County gun owners implored the County Council last night to vote against a resolution urging the General Assembly to approve gun control legislation.
The resolution, which is endorsed by four of the five council members, does not have the force of law. It is merely a request and one that Councilman Charles C. Feaga, R-5th, and all but one of the people testifying on the resolution found to be anathema.
"It is crime that is the problem, not the law-abiding citizen" who owns firearms, said Larry LaGuardia, president of the Howard County Rifle and Pistol Club.
"It is about time the legislature woke up and stopped trying to blame an inanimate object," he said. "Let's put the blame where it belongs -- a failed criminal justice system."
David D. Bates of West Friendship agreed. "Get rid of the criminals, and guns will be irrelevant," he said.
John W. Taylor of Highland, who used last night's hearing to plug his candidacy for the council seat now held by Mr. Feaga, said "it is clear that it is time to look elsewhere for solutions" to a growing crime problem.
One solution, he said, would be to impose the death penalty for "hideous" crimes. "An execution has not been carried out in Maryland in 30 years. It boggles the mind," Mr. Taylor said.
Rather than advocate gun control, the council should support lethal injections for criminals convicted of capital crimes, he said.
Many of the arguments against the resolution centered on what people perceived as their defenselessness in the face of increasingly violent crime. For example, Mr. Feaga said that increased numbers of rapes will occur if people are not allowed to own guns.
Bryant Cramer of Ellicott City said the gun ownership problem is complex. "We can't say it's just crime," he said. Drug abuse, unemployment and poverty are other problems that have to be addressed, he said.
Planning Board member Theodore F. Mariani also spoke against the resolution. Mr. Mariani said he has owned a target pistol for 40 years, and "I have never shot at an animal in my life."
He said elected leaders need to "do everything possible to make ownership of guns a responsible act and misuse a reprehensible act."
For the council to pass this resolution would be to "take the eye off the ball of the real problem," which is the breakdown of families and society, Mr. Mariani said.
"There is an African proverb, 'It takes a whole village to raise a child' -- but we are not spending five minutes with our children," he said.
The council will vote on the resolution March 7.