Ballyhooed gun bill is a shameful hoax; Disgrace: It was a sad day, and a corrupted process, that brought Maryland its gun bill -- and the consequences will be even worse

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Never before have the people of any state had such a legislative hoax perpetrated upon them as have the fair citizens of Maryland with the passing and enactment of the Governor's so-called "Responsible Gun Safety Act of 2000."

Maryland legislators were asked to turn off their brains, ignore their Constitutional duties and turn on the green light for Parris N. Glendening's package of gun controls. In their haste to pose before the national media at a high-profile bill signing ceremony last week, the Glendening crowd ignored a very important point: It's the language, stupid. Beginning with the required background checks into juvenile records (infringement of due process) to the sale of only firearms with integrated locking mechanisms be sold in the state of Maryland (infringement on interstate commerce), the entire law is riddled with questions of constitutionality.

The full impact of his bill will be felt only when the courts begin interpreting the many unintended consequences that pepper the law as a result of heavy executive arm-twisting in the legislative process.

While the procedure began like any other legislative debate -- with posturing and maneuvering by both sides, hearings with input from citizens and experts -- the final days became increasingly offensive and embarrassing. As the grassroots pressure from the constitutionalists and pro-Second Amendment community began to mount, it became apparent that the governor's proposals would not pass muster in either house -- and the games began.

First, the Senate president pulled the bill from committee to the floor with the illegal use of a Senate rule allowing our patriarchal public policy debate to become a clandestine deal between the administration and Democrat leadership in both houses. There,the centerpiece of the bill -- the so-called "Smart Gun" mandate -- was removed and replaced with language that does not set public policy, but rather leaves each portion subject to interpretation. Knowing the reputation of the House Judiciary Committee -- which, as one legislator politely put it, "would amend the Ten Commandments if it could" -- and not wanting to chance the loss of the bill, the governor called Democrat underlings one by one to his office. He delivered his orders that there were to be no amendments to the Senate version of the bill. His message, which was expressed by many members of the House Judiciary Committee, was that a "clean bill" -- no matter how unintelligible -- must come forward.

Unfortunately, the elected legislative servants of the people became a rubber stamp for the executive branch as they "held their hands to their mouth, fingers to their nose" and voted 14 (all Democrats) to seven (the Republican members and one brave Democrat) to send the "clean" yet defective bill to the House floor.

That historic Monday night, although the galleries of the House were brimming with Constitution supporters cheering and inspiring their champion elected servants to three hours of passionate debate, the integrity of the body had already been dishonored with the vulgar intrusion into the committee process by the executive officer. When the final vote was taken, we -- the people of this once "Free State" -- lost.

However, while the media and the governor boasted that the bill passed overwhelmingly, the final total was actually a pretty close call for the House. It takes 72 votes for a bill to pass -- so the bill only had a margin of 11 votes, meaning that six people changing their votes would have changed the outcome. Unfortunately for the conservative members of the General Assembly, during the 1998 election, we lost six Republican delegates at the polls throughout the state -- which might have been the margin of difference on this bill.

After misconduct on the governor's part with his knee-breaking politics and trading taxpayer money for votes, he stood in the rotunda of the State House with the president of these great United States and once again offended those of us who still believe in the rights granted by the Constitution. They spoke of the honor and privilege of being in the very spot where our first father of freedom, George Washington, resigned from the Continental Congress -- and with immoral breath they touted gun control. Once again, the Maryland General Assembly was shammed as Glendening misrepresented the law as a panacea for saving lives.

Unfortunately for the governor, in the real world -- where words have meaning and plain language definitions matter -- the simple truth is the new law calls for nothing more than what is now known as a "safety" -- a lever or switch which when activated prevents the handgun from being fired. Precisely, although they would have you believe that this law is about safety, it is gun control at its best.

Additionally, while this legislator and many other Second Amendment defenders in the General Assembly believe that the education and training of all hunters and shooters is an important and desirable goal, we also believe that training should not be used as a hurdle to the exercising of a constitutional right. This part of the law, which requires that all new purchasers of handguns be trained according to government standards before buying the handgun, is much like a poll tax, designed to serve as a means to ration a God-given right.

Still, while contentious and well intentioned legislators can differ, it is instructive to note the level of cynicism of the proponents of this legislation.

Imagine that passage of this bill was so important that the floor leader offered up the explanation that this provision should be acceptable to those who believe that the state should not be the gate-keeper of this Constitutional right because the bill required just two hours of training and no skill or knowledge test to pass. He said the gun buyer could just "sleep through it." More responsibility and safety.

These are just a few of the many egregious problems with this law that were so callously ignored by the two highest-ranking elected officials charged with enforcing the laws of our nation and our state.

Sadly, the trade-offs by members of the General Assembly did nothing more than bargain away liberties and justice for all.

Del. Carmen Amedori, a Carroll County Republican, opposes gun control on constitutional grounds. She does not hunt, shoot or own a firearm.

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