- The Washington Times - Monday, January 14, 2002

Although Gov. Parris N. Glendening pledged not to push more gun-control bills, legislators will reprise efforts to approve some measures that he might sign in this final year of his administration.
Sen. Christopher Van Hollen, Montgomery County Democrat, said he is sponsoring a measure that requires anyone who purchases a handgun or other regulated firearm to obtain a license.
To get a license, buyers would have to go to a police station and be fingerprinted.
"We think we are going as far as we need to to stop straw purchases," said Eric Gally, a lobbyist for Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse.
"A person clean enough to pass a background check and [willing to] go into a police station for fingerprinting" would be unlikely to buy a gun for someone who is ineligible, Mr. Gally said.
Last year, Maryland began requiring gun dealers to send state police a bullet casing from any new gun sold, along with other data about the gun and buyer. The information is entered in a forensic database.
Buyers of regulated guns already must pass background checks, and under a law that went into effect Jan. 1, must take state-approved gun-safety training which, so far, consists chiefly of watching a videotape.
The licensing requirement was deleted from Mr. Glendening's 1996 gun-control bill that limited gun purchases to one per month.
The measure is expected to encounter opposition that could stall it in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, as well as from gun-rights advocates who say it unfairly subjects lawful gun owners to measures and scrutiny usually reserved for criminals.
"I don't underestimate the challenge," said Mr. Van Hollen.
But a revised proposal to mandate gun education in schools might become law this year.
Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, a Democrat who represents Baltimore city and county, said she again will propose a measure requiring schools to offer gun education, but let school boards determine curriculum, subject to review of the state education department.
The National Rifle Association and gun-control advocates last year warily joined to support a gun-education proposal that got bogged down in details and maneuvering to ensure both views would be represented.
Although the General Assembly approved the bill, Mr. Glendening, a liberal Democrat, vetoed it, complaining he would not enact a law that could put guns in the hands of schoolchildren under the direction and tutelage of the NRA.
"Where people hunt, I'd rather children got taught how to handle a rifle," Mrs. Hoffman said.
Although the measure had bipartisan support, some gun-rights groups objected to the bill as did teachers unions and associations who opposed curriculum mandates.
Mrs. Hoffman said she also will sponsor legislation to increase penalties for leaving unsecured, loaded firearms within the reach of a minor.
The bill would increase the penalty for the misdemeanor from a maximum $1,000 fine to a maximum $5,000 fine and/or a maximum five years in jail.
It also would change criteria for conviction. Courts now must find defendants guilty if they knew or should have known that the child would be able to gain access to the gun. Under the bill being drafted, defendants would be found guilty if they knew or "reasonably" should have known that the child "could" access the gun.
Mr. Gansler said the change aims to make sure that gun owners eliminate the chance that children can get to loaded guns.
Several child shootings in Montgomery and Howard counties pointed to a need to change the law, Mrs. Hoffman and Mr. Gansler said.
But James Purtilo, publisher of the gun rights newsletter Tripwire, said National Safety Council statistics show an average of zero to three such incidents occur in Maryland annually. He also said a change in state law would not prevent people from making mistakes or errors in judgment.

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