- The Washington Times - Friday, March 24, 2000

ANNAPOLIS Extraordinary measures used to bring Gov. Parris N. Glendening's omnibus gun-control measure to the floor set off a shouting match in the Maryland Senate with Republicans and members of the bypassed committee demanding that their objections be heard.
After days of wrangling and more debate expected over the weekend, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. Thursday night said the bill had a good chance of passing with most of Mr. Glendening's wants intact. And the House, generally viewed as a less conservative body, is likely to pass a similar version as well.
On Wednesday, lawmakers struck a compromise in which Mr. Glendening agreed to support less-ambitious legislation eliminating a mandate for high-tech personalized "smart guns," but preserving most provisions of his plan.
Thursday's raucous spat was just a warm up for a prolonged showdown that Mr. Miller, Prince George's Democrat, said could last through the weekend, given prospects of a filibuster and his plan to bring the bill to a final vote Monday.
Mr. Miller called the rarely used move voting to bring the bill out of the Judicial Proceedings Committee so it could go onto a vote by the full Senate the easiest way to preserve the "comity … and friendship" of the body.
Yet Mr. Glendening's push for the most aggressive gun-control measures in the nation over committee resistance cracked a decorous veneer Maryland senators have burnished for more than 200 years.
"How dare we make rules for the people of Maryland and not follow the rules ourselves," said Sen. Andrew Harris, Baltimore County Republican. "This is an abomination, a violation of the three parts of government."
But Mr. Miller insisted on interpreting Senate rules to allow lawmakers to vote, 26-19, to move the gun-control measure to the floor.
After yesterday's vote agreeing to take up the gun-control proposal on the floor, Sen. Christopher C. Van Hollen Jr., Montgomery County Democrat, offered amendments to create the compromise bill.
Amendments would:
* Require external gun locks sold with any handgun purchased beginning Oct. 1.
* Require built-in locking devices on any handgun purchased beginning Jan. 1, 2003.
* Require attendance at a free safety course for anyone purchasing a handgun on or after Jan. 1, 2002. No testing is required.
* Require manufacturers to supply a shell casing with every handgun sold in Maryland (for forensic use).
* Direct the Handgun Roster Board, which must review and approve any handgun before it may be sold in Maryland, to report annually to the legislature on the availability of personalized "smart-gun" technology.
But the Senate agreed to postpone action on the amendments until Friday so opponents could organize their efforts to reshape or defeat the bill.
"They are going to need 32 votes [the number required to break a filibuster] before it's over, because we are going to do what we need to do and take our time," Sen. Larry E. Haines, Carroll County Republican, said.
However, Mr. Haines said he was concerned that Mr. Miller is holding out the threat of calling the Senate into session over the weekend to continue debate on the bill.
If that happens and Thursday Senate leaders said a Saturday session was already planned it will be easier to get the votes to break a filibuster "because people will want to go home," Mr. Haines said.
In the meantime, committee members may vote to bring to the Senate floor some gun-related bills they have held for fear that Mr. Glendening's gun-control plan would be amended to them.
A bill requiring Maryland to adopt Project Exile is scheduled for a committee vote before the Senate goes into session at 11 a.m. Friday.
Credited by some with cutting gun crime by almost a third in Richmond, the state of Virginia took the program statewide last year.
More than a half-dozen cities and states have adopted the program, which imposes five-year sentences on felons who use guns to commit crimes and those who carry the weapons on school property or while toting drugs such as cocaine or heroin.
Project Exile has broad bipartisan support.
Mr. Haines said legislators may try to amend Project Exile onto Mr. Glendening's gun-control bill as a way to ensure the governor doesn't veto it.
A riskier but possible maneuver would be to try to amend a bill that would require the state to issue concealed-carry permits to adults who apply unless the individual could be a public-safety threat.
Thursday, Mr. Glendening denied the compromise watered down his bill. The compromise legislation would put pressure on gun makers to follow the lead of Smith & Wesson, which has already entered a federal agreement, to avoid lawsuits, that would meet or exceed Mr. Glendening's proposal.
"If they don't, they'll be selling a gun without the safest technology" and that would make them vulnerable to more lawsuits, Mr. Glendening said.

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