- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 21, 2001

ANNAPOLIS Maryland House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. and Maryland State Police Superintendent David Mitchell are expected to announce today temporary measures to let gun dealers replenish handgun supplies that have dwindled since a new law went into effect Oct. 1.
That law requires manufacturers to ship a fired shell casing with any handgun sold in the state.
Under new emergency regulations, gun dealers would be allowed, for about six months, to provide fired casings if manufacturers are not doing so, sources said.
Dealers would be required to pay a $20 fee with each shell casing they fire and ship to Maryland State Police to compile in a "ballistics-fingerprinting" database.
The vice president of Maryland Licensed Firearms Dealers said he sees no purpose for the fee except "harassment."
Sanford Abrams also called the deal a "third of a loaf," noting that his organization has asked legislators to let them provide the shell casings until January 2003 in the belief that it will take more than a year for many manufacturers to resume making models that were previously available in Maryland.
"The speaker is concerned about gun owners in his district, and probably justly so," Mr. Abrams said, referring to criticism leveled at Mr. Taylor, Allegany County Democrat, for pushing last year's controversial gun-control measure. "Now [those gun owners] can say you cost me $20 more."
The Washington Times reported in December that handgun dealers were running out of new guns to sell because manufacturers and distributors weren't willing to comply with the Maryland law.
Delegate Kevin Kelly, Allegany County Democrat, said the remedial measure falls short of what should be done.
"The National Rifle Association told them 12 months ago that this was a gun ban in the making," said Mr. Kelly, who has legislation pending that would repeal the ballistics-fingerprinting requirement. "Now they think they can clean up the mess with a six-month emergency regulation and a $20 gun tax? It appears this is the only thing they can do to keep gun businesses solvent and companies able to provide a legal product."
Mr. Kelly said he's concerned that manufacturers may be reluctant to ship anyway because the law still prohibits them from doing so unless they comply.
Fellow House Judiciary Committee member Carmen Amedori, Carroll County Republican, called the fee an unfair tax and said the "de facto ban" wouldn't have occurred if House Democratic leaders had let members amend last year's bill.
Spokesmen for Mr. Taylor and Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who advocated last year's gun-control measure, declined to comment until today's announcement.
Mr. Kelly said proponents of last year's bill, which drew then-President Clinton to the State House for its signing, wanted to create what amounts to a ban on private handgun ownership in Maryland.
James Purtilo, publisher of Greenbelt-based gun-rights newsletter Tripwire, said the same people who pushed last year's gun-control legislation are willing to make small concessions as a matter of political expediency.
"Now we know what our rights are worth: $20 for a short-term [deal]," Mr. Purtilo said.
Other gun measures pending before the General Assembly include one that would banish established gun shows from parks property in Prince George's.
Meanwhile, in other General Assembly business:
n A bill toughening ethics laws concerning Maryland lobbyists breezed through the state Senate yesterday, passing 43-4.
The House has approved a similar bill, but some minor differences have to be settled before either bill can be sent to Mr. Glendening for his signature.
The Senate bill allows the state to suspend or revoke the licenses of lobbyists who violate ethics laws, to require greater disclosure of how much lobbyists spend entertaining lawmakers and to require more disclosure of campaign contributions by companies that hire registered lobbyists.
The legislation was drafted by a commission created in response to federal investigations that convicted two Maryland lobbyists of crimes in recent years.
During an earlier debate in the Senate, some members said the state already has strong laws regulating activities of lobbyists and doesn't need any more.
n Baltimore Ravens officials made the rounds in Annapolis yesterday, showing off the Vince Lombardi trophy and thanking state officials for building a stadium for the National Football League champions.
Owner Art Modell thanked lawmakers for their overwhelming support of the stadium, a joking reference to the fact that the stadium funding only narrowly passed both the House and Senate.
n Maryland is closer to having an official state cat.
The House gave preliminary approval yesterday to a bill that that makes the calico cat the official cat of Maryland.
n The House approved a measure that proposes a joint commission with Virginia and Washington to look at traffic problems in the area.
The commission would study the creation of a regional transportation authority. The commission has to submit its findings and recommendations to the legislatures and governors next year.
Some lawmakers objected that the bill would encourage the region's dependence on highways. But House Majority Leader John Hurson, Montgomery County Democrat, said that if nothing is done, things will only get worse.
The bill passed the House 120-12 with one abstention.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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