- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 28, 2001

Maryland has missed by six months its deadline for setting up a firearms-safety course that its residents will have to complete before they can buy a handgun next year.
Some residents are concerned the delay could force would-be gun buyers to be put on a waiting list for a course that should be available to them within two weeks of their request, according to a gun-control law enacted last year.
The Maryland Police Training Commission was directed to create regulations for the course by Jan. 1 this year as a component of an omnibus gun-safety bill that Gov. Parris N. Glendening pushed and the General Assembly approved more than a year ago.
The state's failure to comply with its own law has some gun-rights activists complaining that officials are ignoring their timetable out of disregard for the constitutional rights of citizens to have guns.
Last year, Maryland handgun dealers said they could not procure and sell guns their customers wanted because of confusing new Maryland regulations, published late, that dictated how manufacturers must provide a fired shell casing with new handguns to trace the weapon.
To correct what House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., Allegany County Democrat, said had caused a "virtual handgun ban," the state agreed to set up temporary provisions for dealers to have state police employees fire and collect the required casings. But the state did not start administering that program for almost three months, rather than the six weeks officials had estimated.
James Purtilo, publisher of the gun-rights newsletter Tripwire, is seeking a court order for the training commission to adopt course regulations. He said he may ask for an injunction to stop police from enforcing the course requirement until course regulations have been in place for a year.
"I think that's the only just way to settle it," Mr. Purtilo said.
The commission began drafting regulations last summer, its executive director Donald G. Hopkins, said yesterday. But the commission did not publish a draft of the regulations until June 15.
"Clearly, [state officials] did not anticipate it would take as long as it did to write the regulations, but they will be in place months before January 2002," said Glendening spokeswoman Michelle Byrnie.
Mr. Hopkins said the regulations would likely go in effect in early September if no major changes are made after a public comment period.
"The law was very complicated. I think when the law was passed there wasn't sufficient understanding in the legislature about how long it would take to write regulations," Mr. Hopkins said.
For instance, he has asked the attorney general to define what the law means when it refers to a "reputable" gun organization. The law allows "reputable" gun organizations, as well as the commission, state police and the state Department of Natural Resources to issue the certification that is required for safety-course instructors.
Mr. Hopkins said the commission plans to make the free course available in October so that persons who want to buy a gun on Jan. 1 can have time to complete it.
"We're trying to make sure none of the citizens of Maryland are hurt in legal efforts to get a firearm," he said.

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