- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 15, 2000

ANNAPOLIS Gov. Parris N. Glendening's office forwarded inaccurate information from Handgun Control Inc. to state legislators, doubling federal statistics on 1997 gun deaths in Maryland.

A Glendening legislative staffer sent inflated figures, apparently taken from Handgun Control's Web site, to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sheila Hixson. They listed firearms deaths in Maryland by victim's age and type of shooting.

Handgun Control Inc.'s research director, Douglas Weil, said staffers used data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics to create the chart.

But Handgun Control listed a total of 1,408 firearms deaths for Maryland almost double the 710 Maryland firearm deaths that the CDC reported.

Mr. Weil said the erroneous information was generated inadvertently during turnover in Handgun Control's research staff. Confusing notes left by a researcher who hadn't finished compiling the data caused some "double counting," Mr. Weil said.

Glendening spokesman Mike Morrill said the governor and his staff have been saying that about 700 people die in Maryland every year by firearms roughly the number reported by the CDC, although they get their figures from the Maryland State Police.

But a Glendening staffer, in a reply to a committee request, supplied the numbers, not knowing they were wrong, from a source that "has been reliable" and noted their origin Handgun Control Inc. Mr. Morrill said.

He said the staffer did not know the numbers Handgun Control had posted were wrong until a reporter inquired about the letter.

The staffer has now started to inform committee members about the error, Mr. Morrill said. Mr. Weil said the error was made for several states.

"We don't know if one person pulled that information off our Web site or more," Mr. Weil said.

Handgun Control pulled the erroneous information off its Web site about an hour after Yale University professor John Lott a gun-rights advocate notified them of the discrepancy on March 2, Mr. Weil said.

A check revealed the information had been pulled from Handgun Control's Web site, but the only message said the page was temporarily unavailable.

No message appeared on the site yesterday afternoon warning that information posted earlier was erroneous.

Although Mr. Weil said the information was posted for no more than two days before it was pulled March 2, the letter Mr. Glendening's office sent to the committee with the apparent Web site attachments was dated Feb. 21 and stamped received Feb. 23.

Delegate Carmen Amedori, Carroll County Republican, said the public needs to know about Handgun Control's dissemination of false information since the organization has done little to correct the record.

"They should be ashamed," said Mrs. Amedori who serves on the House Judiciary Committee, which is scheduled to hear legislation that would legislate "childproof smart guns" this week. "Kids are not piling up like cords of wood."

Statistics the National Rifle Association supplied yesterday in response to a reporter's query matched the CDC's data for 1997 firearm deaths in Maryland. Suzin Schneider contributed to this report.

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