- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 18, 2002

A Baltimore County Circuit Court judge has agreed with state Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. that a civic leader who was a Maryland "citizen of the year" should not be allowed to have a gun.
Judge John F. Fader II's ruling reverses the decision of the state's Handgun Permit Review Board and reignites anger among lawmakers and gun-rights activists over a state police initiative that is confiscating guns and denying permits to Marylanders for minor and old convictions.
"The decision tragically supports Joe Curran's fanatical, anti-Second Amendment, gun-grabbing, police-state mentality," said Delegate Kevin Kelly, an Allegany County Democrat who sponsored legislation this year to stop state police from taking guns from "law-abiding" people, such as Donald G. Arnold.
Although the bill drew support from House Speaker Casper R. Taylor and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., both Democrats, it died after gun-control and violence-prevention groups made calls to lawmakers, arguing it would put guns back in the hands on domestic abusers.
Mr. Arnold, a former private investigator, lost his handgun-carry permit in 2000, the same year the state honored him for his work with Baltimore police to stop drug dealers and make the city's southeast neighborhoods safer.
Mr. Arnold had to take lower-paying work as a security supervisor after losing the permit he had held for decades over a misdemeanor conviction in 1969. Just back from the war in Vietnam, Mr. Arnold got into a barroom scuffle with a war protester who spotted his Army jacket and called him a "baby killer," court records state.
He turned himself in, went to court without an attorney and was found guilty of second-degree, or "common law," assault a misdemeanor.
Mr. Arnold was sentenced to a 60-day suspended sentence and put on unsupervised probation.
Thirty-one years later, Mr. Arnold was denied his gun permit after Mr. Curran directed state police to take guns from persons convicted of common-law assault in Maryland.
Although the state review panel twice decided Mr. Arnold should not be disqualified pointing to his short sentence as one reason Mr. Curran's office asked the courts to overrule it.
Arguing the appeal, Assistant Attorney General Mark Bowen said that a federal law bans people from having guns if they have been convicted of any "crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year" and that, because Maryland places no limit on sentencing for common-law assault, such convictions are a bar to gun possession in Maryland.
Six months later, Judge Fader appointed by former Democratic Gov. Harry Hughes in 1982 agreed, saying the Handgun Permit Review Board "has no discretion to consider the actual time served."
Judge Fader refused to consider an argument that Mr. Arnold did not lose his gun rights by his conviction because, he said, he did not lose other civil rights, such as the right to vote or serve on a jury.
"The issue is interesting," Judge Fader wrote, adding that he could not consider it because it was not an issue argued before the review board.
"The law is not the problem, the attorney general is the problem," said David W. Fischer, an attorney retained by Mr. Arnold after the attorney general went to court to stop the handgun board's order.
"The entire case should be a wake-up call to gun owners around Maryland," said Mr. Fischer, who is making gun-rights part of his campaign to win the seat in the U.S. House now held by Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest.
Mr. Curran denied that his own advocacy of banning all private handgun ownership in Maryland, which he outlined in a 1999 publication, had any bearing on his application of the law a charge a National Rifle Association spokesman repeated yesterday.
"Federal Congress set the rules, I didn't," Mr. Curran said.


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