- The Washington Times - Friday, January 3, 2003

At around 2:30 p.m. last Sunday afternoon, an 82-year-old resident of Brooklyn Park, a Baltimore suburb, heard a noise coming from the front of his home. The elderly man, whose house had been broken into less than a week before, picked up a handgun and went to investigate. When the man got downstairs, he found that an intruder had entered his house through a side window.
The homeowner fired a single shot, which struck the intruder, who immediately fled the house. Anne Arundel County Police arrested Joseph Kelly, 41, roughly 100 yards from the scene of the break-in. He has been charged with felony burglary.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this case is that police and prosecutors in Anne Arundel County have not ruled out prosecuting the elderly homeowner. But it would be a travesty of justice if this 82-year-old man were to be prosecuted for shooting an intruder who broke into his home. Based on the information that has been made public thus far, the man deserves better than the legal limbo he's been placed in by prosecutors. Marylanders and Anne Arundel County residents in particular need to demand that State's Attorney Frank Weathersbee file no charges against the homeowner.
But, so far as making life miserable for law-abiding gun-owners in Maryland is concerned, this is only the least of it. On Wednesday, a new law, part of a misnamed "gun-safety" package rammed through the General Assembly in 2000 at the behest of the Glendening-Townsend administration, took effect in Maryland. The measure bans the sale of newly made handguns which lack internal child-safety locks. Dealers can still sell guns manufactured without the locks before 2003, and have stockpiled as many of the weapons as possible. But they will eventually run out of these weapons, and will only be able to offer their customers a tiny fraction of the handguns available on the U.S. market for purchase. (Under federal law, customers are prohibited from crossing state lines to purchase weapons.) Look for handgun prices in Maryland to soar, putting them out of range for low- and middle-income residents who need them to protect their homes and families.
Moreover, gun-store owners make a compelling case that guns with internal locks pose risks of their own. Because they are very difficult to open in a hurry, owners are more likely to leave them unlocked and, therefore more easily accessible to defend their homes if they hear a prowler breaking in in the middle of the night. "For me, the decision is going to be to leave it unlocked," one gun-store owner told the Baltimore Sun. "A locked gun can't defend me. At 3 a.m., I'm not going to find that little hole with that little key."
While Republican Gov.-elect Robert Ehrlich has not retreated from his plan to review state gun laws, any reform effort is certain to face considerable opposition from Democrats in the General Assembly, including such fervent advocates of of the Glendening-Townsend approach as Sen. Brian Frosh of Montgomery County, chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, and Delegate Joseph Vallario of Prince George's County, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Mr. Ehrlich will need to go over the heads of the liberal leadership in the General Assembly and take his case for an overhaul of the state's flawed gun laws directly to the people of Maryland.

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