- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend yesterday said she has asked state police to draw up legislation to control the sale of military-style semiautomatic assault weapons like the one used in the area sniper attacks.
"I have asked Colonel Mitchell to prepare legislation and, where necessary, prevent the sale of military-style assault weapons and extend ballistic fingerprinting," the Democratic gubernatorial candidate said at the Rockville Courthouse, where she appeared with Maryland State Police Superintendent David Mitchell, County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, state Sen. Christopher Van Hollen and Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler.
"We cannot allow criminals to have greater firepower than the police," she said.
Taking a break from campaigning in Montgomery County, Mrs. Townsend said she supports extending the authority of the Handgun Roster Board statewide to regulate assault weapons, such as the Bushmaster rifle used in the sniper attacks.
She said that while such weapons accounted for only 1 percent of the sales of guns in the country, they were involved in 8 percent of the crimes.
"This is not to legislate or control legitimate ownership of firearms," Mrs. Townsend said, adding she did not want to interfere with the rights of hunters and sportsmen. "This is not about preventing law-abiding citizens from exercising their right. It is about keeping lethal weapons out of the hands of criminals."
Mr. Duncan said the two suspects in the sniper case would not have been caught if not for ballistic fingerprinting, and lauded Maryland's pioneering role in this field. "But even our tough gun laws could stand to be improved," he said.
Before the news conference in Rockville, Mrs. Townsend made a campaign stop at Leisure World, where a woman was shot by the sniper on Oct. 2. The area is crucial to candidates because it represents the largest voting precinct in the state with 6,000 registered voters. As many as 80 percent of them usually vote.
The Republican candidate for governor, Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who has in the past said he would like to review ballistic fingerprinting, yesterday said the merits of the program could best be assessed by police. As governor, he said, he would sit down with law-enforcement officials and discuss the program.
Montgomery County Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) President Walter Bader said expanding ballistic fingerprinting should not be the top priority for the state. "Let's get the DNA done. Let's get a national fingerprint database," he said.
The county FOP yesterday announced its endorsement of Mr. Ehrlich, although the state FOP has backed Mrs. Townsend.
Mr. Bader voiced the union's support for Mr. Ehrlich's plan to initiate Project Exile, a program to increase gun-crime prosecutions, in Maryland.
"We hear a lot about passing gun laws and we see very little enforcement of them," said Mr. Bader. "Project Exile is a program that works, that deals with the people who are violating those gun laws, rather than just creating new laws."
S.A. Miller contributed to this report.

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