- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 14, 2001

ANNAPOLIS Gun rights and gun-control advocates clashed yesterday over Gov. Parris N. Glendening's proposal to ban civilian possession of body armor and difficulties with gun regulations he pushed last year.

"They want to have a big bureaucracy set up on body armor like they have on handguns," said Roy Tarbutton of Pasadena, Md., referring to gun regulations that gun dealers and buyers criticize as increasingly excessive and unfair to law-abiding Marylanders.

The comments were made at a hearing before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on several public safety bills, including a measure to repeal a mandate that gun manufacturers ship a shell casing with all new handguns sold in Maryland after Sept. 30, 2000.

When Mr. Glendening announced in January that the body-armor ban would be among his legislative priorities this year, he said the measure was needed to give police an advantage against criminals emboldened by wearing the vests.

The body-armor bill would largely reserve use of the bullet-thwarting vests for police.

But holders of permits to carry concealed firearms, military personnel, private detectives, watchmen, security and bank guards, armored car guards also would be exempted.

Persons who might need such protection in their employment including parole, probation, corrections, county jail and emergency medical services providers could wear or possess body armor on duty, but not outside their employment.

Anyone else would have to obtain a state police permit to possess body armor or, if caught with it, could be found guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to a fine of up to $5,000 or imprisonment for up to five years, or both.

"I'm concerned about the burden it puts on business people and people who work in convenience stores," said Sen. Larry Haines, Carroll County Republican.

Sen. Timothy Ferguson, Frederick County Republican, agreed, arguing that those who need it may not have time to go through the regular or, as yet undefined, emergency application process.

"I'm disappointed that the bill is silent as to an appeal process or cost," said Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, Anne Arundel County Democrat.

Opponents still stinging from the "unintended consequences" of a Glendening measure that they say created a de facto gun ban, said they saw no need for a body armor ban. And they objected to leaving regulations up to state police, whom they blame partly for ballistics fingerprinting regulations they claim have led gun makers to stop shipments to Maryland.

Seven vests police have collected from felons in five years do little to argue the need, said John H. Josselyn, vice president of the Associated Gun Clubs of Baltimore.

"The point is this is becoming more common, not less common, and it's something that is fairly easy to foresee," said Glendening spokesman Mike Morrill.

Col. David Mitchell, state police superintendent, said he had heard "everything from [Maryland State Police] bashing to personal bashing," but didn't hear that anyone had asked manufacturers to comply with a requirement he contends should be easy since all guns are test-fired.

Opponents argue the $2 million ballistics data base project is expensive and that the value of entering such data on legally purchased guns is unproved.

• • •

There will be no change for at least a year in Maryland's state song, a fervid appeal to rebellion that characterizes Abraham Lincoln as a despot and reviles Union troops as northern scum.

The Commerce and Government Matters Committee yesterday killed a bill that would have declared that "Maryland, My Maryland" was no longer the official state song.

The anthem was written in 1861 by James Ryder Randall, a Confederate sympathizer who had left his native Maryland to teach in New Orleans.

• • •

Legislation intended to give minority contractors a larger share of state business moved ahead on two legislative fronts yesterday.

The legislation was proposed by Mr. Glendening to update the existing law which seeks to give companies owned by women and racial minorities 14 percent of the value of state contracts.

Mr. Glendening's bill would increase the goal to 25 percent.

The Senate passed the governor's bill on a 39-8 roll call. A similar bill won tentative approval in the House and likely will be back for a final vote later this week.

• • •

The Senate gave unanimous approval to a bill that would increase the maximum penalty for murder in domestic abuse cases.

The bill would classify deaths resulting from abuse of a spouse, child or vulnerable adult as first-degree murder with a maximum sentence of life in prison. Currently the crime is second degree murder with a maximum 30-year sentence.

The bill still needs approval of the House.

• • •

Legislation that would have required voters to show identification was killed by the House.

Supporters of the bill argued it would reduce fraud. But, opponents said it might increase fraud by making it easier for election officials to intimidate legitimate voters and keep them away from the polls.

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