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Assault time


THERE IS NO compelling reason why military-style assault weapons need to be widely sold. These types of guns are designed to allow the user to fire many bullets in a short period of time in a spray-like fire. They're hardly ideal for hunting or even defending your home. As a society, we figured this out a decade ago when Congress first approved a ban on them. It's as true today as it was then.

The argument for the law is, in fact, so well established that a Republican candidate named George W. Bush supported it four years ago. So do most law enforcement organizations. It's true that assault weapons are involved in a relatively small percentage of crimes, but the ban is one reason for that. It's a good law that, if anything, needs strengthening.

Yet here we sit with the ban set to expire in mid-September and Congress has so far failed to act. Even more embarrassing for Maryland, efforts to pass an assault weapons ban in Annapolis (a cause made more urgent by the federal law's imminent demise) have been held up by a single politician, John A. Giannetti Jr., a 39-year-old Democratic state senator from Laurel. Despite representing Prince George's County, where gun violence is a huge concern for voters, he says he's undecided and so the bill now languishes in a deadlocked Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

Well, there are words to describe politicians who lack the fortitude to stand up to the National Rifle Association and approve reasonable, politically moderate gun control measures: gutless wonders. Nobody is talking about taking away anybody's right to bear arms.

When politicians fail to limit assault weapons they send an unmistakable message to all the potential miscreants out there: "Here in America, just about anything goes. Go ahead and own a semiautomatic version of the AK-47 with a giant clip of bullets. Use it at your leisure."

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate is set to take up a bill that gives legal immunity to gun manufacturers. It's a bad bill, but it's also certain to pass Congress. Two amendments are expected to be offered, and both need to be approved. The first would extend the assault weapons ban. The other would close the so-called gun show loophole that allows guns to be sold by unlicensed sellers at shows without a background check.

In Annapolis, the state Senate must move ahead with its assault weapons ban as soon as possible. Even if Congress takes the needed action, the Maryland law should pass - it would help keep even more assault weapons out of our state. That means Mr. Giannetti needs to hear from concerned constituents, particularly those who live in District 21 (which also covers a portion of Anne Arundel County near Jessup and Laurel). Mr. Giannetti can be reached at 410-841-3141, or by fax at 410-841-3195. Please give him a call today.

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