- The Washington Times - Monday, September 11, 2000

People attending the 23rd annual Takoma Park Folk Festival yesterday were encouraged to sample ethnic foods, enjoy a little acoustic guitar music, buy a few handmade crafts and turn in their gun locks.

Many did just that. In fact, the Maryland Citizens Defense League, a gun-rights advocacy group that set up a booth at the festival, collected 60 gun locks in less than an hour after the event began.

"Wow, I can't believe they got so much in so little time. I don't even know what to say to that. Just wow," said Takoma Park resident Sandy Glassman, who took her two toddlers to the festival, which was held on the athletic fields behind the Takoma Park Municipal Center.

The Citizens Defense League set up its "Turn in Your Gun Locks" table at the daylong festival in one of the most liberal communities in Maryland to protest Gov. Parris N. Glendening's gun-control legislation.

Mr. Glendening pushed through the General Assembly and signed into law a bill requiring handgun buyers to purchase external safety locks for their weapons, beginning next month. Gun makers will be required to install built-in locks on all new handguns sold in the state after Jan. 1, 2003.

Yesterday, one woman heckled the volunteers at Citizens Defense League's booth, but many festival-goers stopped by to offer encouraging words.

"I'm so glad you guys are here," Takoma Park resident William Jeffries told the volunteers. "Thanks for showing up."

"It went well," said Norm Balog, a volunteer at the league's booth. "We had one man who turned in some 30 gun locks."

The group's members handed out fact sheets, bumper stickers and charts to bolster their argument that the government should not require the use of gun locks.

Takoma Park, a city of 18,600, has some history of promoting gun control. In fact, 2,500 signatures were collected to get a referendum on banning handguns in the city on the November ballot. The peace-loving festival was an interesting setting for a gun-rights group to gather support.

"It does take courage for them to be here. I just wanted to give them some encouragement. We shouldn't have one point of view on everything," said Takoma Park resident Martin Morse Wooster, who had stopped by the league's booth to show his support.

The league's most vocal opposition came from volunteers for the Million Mom Foundation, which lobbies Congress for gun-licensing and registration laws. Those volunteers expressed outrage at the league's presence at the festival.

"We feel that it's so obscene that it almost deserves no comment," said Tierney Siegel, president of the Montgomery County chapter of the Million Mom Foundation, who sat at a booth across the field from the gun-rights group's table.

When told of the 60 gun locks that were turned in within an hour, Ms. Siegel said: "That's 60 accidents waiting to happen. And one accident is too many."

The Citizens Defense League collected a total of about 100 gun locks.

The group's volunteers said they chose to represent the 2-year-old gun advocacy group at the festival to tell residents that gun locks provide a false sense of security.

"They do more harm than good," Mr. Balog said. "The locks do nothing for safety."

Any locks that were turned in, Mr. Balog said, will be smelted into ingots for manufacture of new firearms to be raffled in about six months. A receipt, given for each gun lock, will be good for one chance in the raffle.

Other groups that set up booths to promote their causes agreed that the league had a right to be at the festival and express their views, even though they didn't share the group's belief.

"As a matter of free speech, they certainly have the right to be here," said Bob Stewart, a member of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee and local labor activist. "Their grossly irresponsible advocacy of turning in child safety gun locks shows that they can only be strong [George W.] Bush supporters."

Others disagreed. "I have no problem with them being out here," said Robert Culver, co-chairman of the Montgomery Citizens for a Safer Maryland, a group that teaches gun safety. "They have a message to deliver and they're totally right in their basic message. Everyone has the right to defend themselves without encumbrance."

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