- The Washington Times - Monday, September 23, 2002

The Maryland Handgun Roster Board will meet this week to determine which firearms will qualify for sale under a new law requiring integrated safety devices on handguns, as gun sellers complain that the vagueness of the law will hamper compliance and hurt sales.
The Responsible Gun Safety Act, which goes into effect in January, requires all guns sold in the state to have integrated mechanical safety devices or built-in locks that would prevent anyone but the owner from firing them.
"We will be meeting before the end of the month to discuss the final determination of what will qualify as an integrated mechanical safety device," said Maryland State Police Superintendent David B. Mitchell, a member of the roster board, which decides which guns are sold in the state.
"We have no intention of imposing a de facto gun ban on Maryland's firearms dealers or citizens," Col. Mitchell said.
State police will enforce the new law through regular audits by its arms-enforcement division.
"When a person goes to an arms dealer and wants to purchase a gun, he must give a description of the gun, including a serial number," said state police spokesman Maj. Greg Shipley.
Maj. Shipley said the division can check the serial number in a database to see if a gun was sold in the state and was in compliance with the safety-device law.
He said state police have not seen any violations of a recent law that requires gun makers to forward spent shell casings with handguns shipped for sale in Maryland.
Gun dealers say they have not been told explicitly what kind of lock is required to comply with the new law and do not know if guns now being manufactured will meet the law's requirements.
Maryland's gubernatorial candidates have recently voiced differing opinions over gun legislation.
While Republican nominee Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said he would review some gun laws if he was elected governor, Democratic Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend has expressed her support for such laws.
Mr. Ehrlich said he believes trigger locks on guns are a good idea. "I supported trigger locks in my congressional district . Gun safety is something, I hope, we can all agree on. Keeping guns out of the hands of kids, I hope, is something we can all agree on."
He stressed the need to study how current gun-control programs were working. "You talk to police to see how well these programs are working, and then you see where the resources need to be spent," he said.
"I think any executive must sit down with the experts, in this case the police, and see what programs are working, and those programs that are working, let's expand them," he said. "Those programs that are not working, let's find out why."
Mrs. Townsend was not available for comment, but a spokesman said she supported all existing legislation on guns.
"She has taken a firm position in support of gun laws. It is a matter of protecting children from guns they should not be accessing," said spokesman Peter Hamm.
Gun dealers also say they are confused by a passage in Mr. Curran's opinion on the integrated safety devices where he cites a 2000 agreement between gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson and the Clinton administration.
The agreement says the locking system should be such that the firearm "can only be operated with a key or combination or other device unique to that gun."
Al Rolinec of the Gun Rack in Burtonsville said that right now only a handful of manufacturers make guns with locks, and that the key is universal for all guns of the same type.
"There is nothing like a unique lock for each gun," he said.
He said gun dealers like himself were worried about what will happen in January.
"Business is going to be a real mess. It is going to drop drastically," he said.
Sanford Abrams, vice president of the Maryland Licensed Firearms Dealers Association, said the attorney general's opinion had left all gun dealers confused. "He is not saying what it is that is required he is not saying what it will be."
The roster board says it will address all concerns at its meeting, scheduled for Sept. 27.
"Our goal is to have a clear definition and to communicate that information immediately to gun manufacturers and Maryland gun dealers," Col. Mitchell said.
He added that the board knew of at least 15 gun manufacturers, "who account for more than 50 percent of handgun sales in Maryland, who have indicated they will have models for sale after Jan. 1, 2003."
Jon Ward contributed to this article.

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