- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 16, 2000

ANNAPOLIS Gov. Parris N. Glendening yesterday said he will bypass a Senate committee that is blocking passage of his "smart gun" proposal from a floor vote.

He said he will work with leading lawmakers to devise a strategy and compromise on the bill as witnesses were testifying about it before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

Six members on that 10-seat panel oppose the bulk of the governor's smart-gun plan, which would mandate integrated locks on handguns by 2002 and guns using technology that prevents them from being fired by unauthorized users as soon as it is available.

The bill needs six votes to get a favorable report from the Senate panel. An identical bill is slated to be debated today by the House Judiciary Committee, but that bill also would go to the Senate committee before it could proceed to a vote on the Senate floor.

Mr. Glendening could rally senators it would take 16 votes to petition the bill to the floor. But he said he would not encourage legislators to take that route.

"We are working closely with legislative leaders to do no harm to the legislative process," Mr. Glendening said without providing details on how he intends to bypass the committee.

The bill could fall victim to a filibuster on the Senate floor. It takes 32 of 47 votes to break the delay and those votes could be difficult to come by.

The bill calls for an 11-member commission to decide when smart-gun technology is available and to make an assessment in time, possibly, to mandate smart guns by 2003.

But state Sen. Walter M. Baker, Upper Eastern Shore Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., a Democrat who represents parts of Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties, oppose letting a commission, largely controlled by the governor, make that decision.

"The members are not going to cede their legislative authority to faceless bureaucrats," Mr. Miller said. "He's got to respect the committee system and give them a chance to digest the testimony they heard today."

Mr. Miller said he has urged Mr. Glendening to sit down with the committee and discuss its concerns including that no one has adequately defined what a smart gun is.

"What we need to do is legislate with what we have at hand, and that's keeping guns out of the wrong hands and enforcing laws we have, as well as mandatory sentences," Mr. Miller said.

Sen. Philip C. Jimeno said committee members are ready to approve a bill that would require anyone who buys a gun in Maryland to purchase an external trigger lock with it.

Mr. Jimeno, Anne Arundel County Democrat, said committee members also would be willing to approve mandatory training and mandatory sentences for gun crimes, but that committee assent to any other measures was "up in the air."

Mr. Glendening said he would insist that four or five measures be included in the bill, but he declined to specify what was not negotiable.

Other options to circumvent the Senate judicial committee include a move to substitute the bill for an unfavorable report when it comes to the Senate floor and amending smart-guns legislation onto another gun-related bill such as one before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee that would give tax credits for gun locks and safes either in committee or on the floor.

Meanwhile, Mr. Glendening described as "ridiculous" a report in The Washington Times that one of his aides had disseminated erroneous data, insisting, as the article noted, that he has consistently said about 700 people die by firearms in Maryland annually.

A staffer sent the House Ways and Means Committee data downloaded from a Handgun Control Inc. Web site that stated 1,408 people died by firearms in Maryland in 1997.

The number reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on which Handgun Control said it based its figures, was 710 Maryland firearm deaths.

Douglas Weil, Handgun Control Inc. research director, said his group had deleted the erroneous data, but it was still accessible yesterday at the Internet address, www.handguncontrol.org/helping/ state/maryland97.htm, without any notation that the data are wrong.

Similar pages for other states also do not match CDC data.

However the link from the group's home page, located at www.handguncontrol.org, to the incorrect data has been severed.

Newly posted accurate data can be obtained through a series of new links from the home page.

The old page is still accessible until it can be saved for archival purposes, said Keith Hall, Handgun Control Inc.'s Web master. It will then be removed.

• Suzin Schneider contributed to this report.

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