- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 19, 2002

ANNAPOLIS State lawmakers are considering legislation that would return gun rights to Maryland residents like former "Citizen of the Year" Donald G. Arnold who lost them because of minor or old convictions.
Key lawmakers are trying to restore gun rights of residents who lost them, recognizing that some laws the General Assembly approved have snared law-abiding gun owners.
Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat, has "encouraged" state police and the attorney general "to be sure they follow the law and the intent of the law," said Mike Morrill, spokesman for Mr. Glendening, who pushed through one of the nation's most far-reaching gun-control laws in 2000.
The draft proposal, which would go to the House, would restore "civil rights" to persons "sentenced to serve" 30 days or less for common-law misdemeanors.
Persons sentenced to serve more than 30 days and less than six months would regain that right if more than 10 years pass and they have not been convicted of any crime other than traffic offenses not punishable by a jail term.
Legislation alone would not restore Mr. Arnold's concealed-carry permit, which state police refused to renew when they found that the Vietnam veteran had pleaded guilty to getting in a scuffle with a war protester in 1969.
But his attorney, David W. Fischer of Glen Burnie, said he believes state police would have to renew Mr. Arnold's permit because they said the only reason they refused to was because he had once been disqualified from having a firearm.
House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., Allegany County Democrat, said "we have something here that clearly needs to be cleaned up in the law. The trick is to correct this flaw without going too far."
To that end, Mr. Taylor and key lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee have included Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. in discussions on how to change the law.
Delegate Kevin Kelly, Allegany County Democrat, fault Mr. Curran and his anti-gun advocacy for causing the problem. Mr. Curran's office interpreted state and federal firearms laws to disqualify many Marylanders not thought of as dangerous and advised state police to strictly enforce disqualification.
Mr. Kelly is working with Mr. Taylor on the new proposal but already has filed a bill targeting the problem.
Although Maryland's Handgun Permit Review Board twice directed state police to renew Mr. Arnold's permit, Mr. Curran who has called for banning all private ownership appealed the decision in Baltimore County Circuit Court. Judge John Fader heard arguments Jan. 4 but has not ruled.
Mr. Fischer called the draft proposal a "good first step" toward restoring gun rights to people who clearly aren't a danger.
"The only people who won't support this are those who are for the confiscation of all private firearms," said Mr. Kelly. He is holding a proposal to remove second-degree assault from the list of crimes of violence that automatically disqualify a person from having a gun. But Mr. Kelly said he won't push to eliminate second-degree assault as a disqualification if the civil-rights-restoration bill addresses the problem.
Some gun-rights activists said the draft civil-rights proposal would leave some people unfairly caught by the state attorney general's interpretation of federal law alongside a messy state law to disqualify persons convicted of common-law offenses as mild as disorderly conduct.
"All they are doing is fixing the problem for the most embarassing cases," said James Purtilo, publisher of the gun-rights newsletter Tripwire.

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