- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Maryland Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert L. Ehrlich is willing to judge gun-control laws on their merits do they actually work? and if not, get rid of them.

Last week, Mr. Ehrlich said during an interview with reporters that he would consider abolishing the state's Handgun Roster Board, a bureaucracy empowered to issue arbitrary diktats forbidding the sale of certain handguns deemed by dint of their lower cost to be so-called Saturday Night Specials as well as rescind a law passed in 2000 that mandated the creation of a state "ballistics database." That law requires gun-manufacturers to test-fire every firearm sold in the state and submit the shell casings to the Maryland State Police. The process is costly and complex, but there is no evidence that it has curtailed crime or helped solve any cases, as Mr. Ehrlich observed. "Ballistics fingerprinting was sold as a great crime-fighting weapon, but we're trying to find out if it's solved even one crime in Maryland," Mr. Ehrlich said Friday.

All of this is quite a departure from the rote anti-gun mindset of Maryland's Democratic Party establishment, which has never come across a new gun-control law it wasn't ready to support. That includes Mr. Ehrlich's opponent in the Maryland governor's race liberal Democrat and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. Last week, a Townsend spokeswoman told The Washington Post that Mr. Ehrlich's idea of insisting that gun-control laws should curb crime "defies common sense." The always-unctuous Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence added: "He's always looking to roll things back, which is absolutely the NRA's agenda" and trotted out the all-purpose "extremist" smear. The Brady Campaign plans to spend more than $250,000 on commercials portraying middle-of-the-road Mr. Ehrlich as being in the pocket of the so-called gun lobby.

But why is it improper to insist that restrictions on gun ownership not infringe upon the constitutional rights of law-abiding American citizens? And what, precisely "defies common sense" about Mr. Ehrlich's suggestion that the proper focus of the criminal justice system and the law be those who actually commit crimes?

Mrs. Townsend and those of her ideological stripe respond with emotional sputtering and shrill demagoguery Mr. Ehrlich is "extreme," he "defies common sense," he's a "supreme conservative" whatever that is but rarely with a factual, reasoned response. Their dislike of guns is irrational and visceral they seem to impute volition to the weapons themselves, not those who mishandle them. It is apparently beyond their ken that a gun is like any other tool and may be used for good or for ill. The tool has never been the problem; only those who misuse it.

Mr. Ehrlich is right to focus attention on that malignant minority and to seek to protect the freedoms of the law-abiding majority. Getting rid of senseless anti-gun ukase would be a great first step.

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