- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 28, 2000

ANNAPOLIS The Maryland Senate gave its final approval last night to legislation that would require built-in locks on all handguns sold in the state by 2003, a move that could make it the first state to create such a mandate.
But the 26-21 vote didn't come until opponents spoke for nearly four hours on the chamber floor, an opportunity not allowed by Senate leaders before a preliminary vote last week.
"The last seven days have been a blight on the Senate now we've inflicted it on law-abiding members of the Senate by passing this bill," said Sen. Nancy Jacobs, Harford County Republican and the only one among nine women in the Senate to vote against the gun-control measure.
Only three Republican senators Senate Minority Leader Martin G. Madden, Jean Roesser and Patrick J. Hogan voted for the measure. Mr. Hogan and Mrs. Roesser represent two Montgomery County districts that are Democratic-Republican battlegrounds. Mr. Madden is the only Republican who represents any part of Prince George's County; his district includes part of Howard County.
"I don't see it as an infringement on anybody's right to own a gun," said Mr. Hogan, adding that it was still a "very difficult" vote. "If you want to go to bed at night with a gun in your nightstand, you can turn that lock off."
Christopher J. McCabe, Montgomery and Howard counties' Republican, was the only senator from Montgomery or Prince George's counties to oppose the bill.
Ten of 21 senators who voted against the measure were Democrats.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. was somewhat blindsided by the opponents' demand to speak at length, but hoped letting them do so would mollify conservatives who continued to complain that Senate rules were being trampled.
Proponents argue that the compromise bill which also would require external locks to be purchased with any handgun after Oct. 1 is a modest measure that will increase the cost of buying a gun but is worthwhile "if it saves one life."
Opponents say it will ensure that criminals have the best guns while law-abiding Marylanders will have to settle for guns that may be less reliable or could delay their response. They say fewer Marylanders will be able to defend themselves adequately especially poor ones.
The House Judiciary Committee, which has not acted on their chamber's version of the bill, is expected to take up the Senate version this week.
House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., Allegany County Democrat, has urged committee members to send the Senate version to the House floor without changes to expedite action.
But opponents are planning to try to remove mandatory internal locks and many other provisions of the bill. If they don't rewrite the bill or kill it in committee, opponents will take up the fight on the House floor.
"We don't want to slow it down, we want to kill it," said Greg Costa, lobbyist for the National Rifle Association. "It's an empty shell of a bill with several very dangerous provisions designed for nothing more than political gain by the governor and his superiors in the Clinton-Gore White House and the Gore campaign."
Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse lobbyist Eric Gally said he expects the bill will move to the House floor because a scant majority of Judiciary Committee members will recognize they will have to forgo leaving their stamp on the bill if they want any measures enacted at all.
"We regret having to ask them to do it this way," Mr. Gally said.
To make yesterday's deadline for passing a bill for the opposite chamber to consider, Mr. Miller used extraordinary measures last Thursday to pull the bill out of committee and to the floor for a vote.
Mr. Miller made a deal last Friday with Mr. Madden and Sen. Timothy Ferguson, Frederick and Carroll counties' Republican, to forestall debate and a likely filibuster. Already Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who initiated the legislation, had agreed to take out a mandate for personalized "smart guns."
Provisions of the gun safety bill also include:
Requiring a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for illegal possession of a firearm by a felon previously convicted for a violent crime or drug offense.
Prohibiting anyone convicted of a violent crime as a juvenile from possessing a handgun until age 30.
Prohibiting police agencies from selling confiscated guns.
Requiring gun manufacturers to provide a shell casing fired from each new gun sold in Maryland to state police.
Requiring anyone buying a gun to complete a two-hour safety training course.
Requiring the Handgun Roster Board to submit an annual report to the governor and legislature on the status of "smart gun" technology.

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