Two Maryland lawmakers want rifles like the one used in the sniper attacks last year added to a statewide ban on assault weapons, as the federal restriction on such weapons expires next year.
Sen. Rob Garagiola of Montgomery County and Delegate Neil F. Quinter of Howard County, both Democrats, are sponsoring the “assault weapons-ban bill” in their respective legislative chambers for the second year in preparation for the lifting of the federal ban on assault weapons in September next year.
Mr. Quinter said he is pessimistic that Congress will extend the ban. “I hope that they do, but I think realistically speaking, it is not very likely the Republican-controlled House and Senate will,” he said.
Mr. Garagiola said he believes the Bushmaster rifle should be included in the ban. Police said the two suspects in the sniper attacks last fall used a Bushmaster rifle in the random shootings that left 10 persons dead and three injured in the Washington metropolitan area.
“I am not looking to take away legitimate hunting rifles and handguns,” he said. “I am looking to maintain and strengthen a federal ban at the state level.”
Chris W. Cox, chief lobbyist for the National Rifle Association (NRA), disagreed with the bill. Mr. Cox said the federal ban’s intention was to study whether the restriction decreased crime, which it didn’t.
“I guess the question is why do the politicians want to keep ineffective laws on the book?” Mr. Cox said. “They’re playing on the emotions of voters and abusing the general public on a very complex and technical debate, and it’s all to chip away at the rights of law-abiding gun owners by incrementally banning more guns.”
Maryland banned a number of military-style assault pistols about 10 years ago but allows the sale of 45 models of semiautomatic assault weapons if a buyer passes a criminal background check and agrees to a seven-day waiting period.
The federal law prohibits the sale of those guns that have two or more characteristics of an assault weapon, like a forward pistol grip and a grenade launcher. There are 19 weapons banned under the law.
The proposed bill would list all the banned weapons and outlaw the sale of 45 models of assault rifles and shotguns. Mr. Garagiola said the bill also would stop manufacturers from simply changing the name and altering a few characteristics of a gun to bypass the law.
Mr. Quinter and Mr. Garagiola — who last year failed to get the weapons-ban bill to the floor — now have the support of Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley and Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s chief rivals in state politics.
During his campaign for governor last fall, Mr. Ehrlich questioned the effectiveness of many gun-control laws in Maryland and said he would review the laws if elected.
Mr. Garagiola said he doesn’t see this as a Democrat vs. Republican issue.
“I can’t see how or why anyone can make an argument to have these weapons back on the street,” he said.
Mr. Garagiola said five other states have imposed such firearm restrictions. He said Connecticut and Kentucky are considering similar bans.
“They were originally banned [by the federal government] because police were being outgunned,” he said. “It does not make sense to allow these guns back on the street.”