ANNAPOLIS – If gunmakers have smart gun technology now, why give them years to put guns using it on the market, the Governor’s Task Force on Childproof Guns decided Thursday.
The panel calling the shots on smart guns for Gov. Parris Glendening will recommend they be the only kind of guns for sale in Maryland two years earlier than it previously suggested.
That moves the deadline from 2005 to 2003. Panel members decided three years is plenty of time for gunmakers to get the weapons on the market.
“I don’t want to sacrifice another life in the state of Maryland because we think they (gunmakers) need another year’s time,” said panel member Stephen Teret, director of Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Gun Policy and Research.
The priority is to get smart guns – weapons that can be fired only by their rightful owner – out as soon as possible, argued task force vice chairman Doug Gansler, Montgomery County State’s Attorney.
Panel member Neil Meyerhoff, president of Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse, said it’s not unreasonable to reduce the time gunmakers have to market their product if a basic version already exists.
“I think 2003 is a wonderful incentive for gun manufacturers,” Meyerhoff said.
Gunmaker Colt’s Manufacturing Co. has testified before the committee that prototypes are available now, but it would take up to five years before a safe and reliable model is available to the public.
Prince George’s County-based Beretta U.S.A. has called smart guns underdeveloped and unproven, arguing that every gun can already be locked – “lockable gun cases and cabinets have existed for decades,” according to a statement on its website.
Attempts to reach Colt’s and Beretta Thursday evening were unsuccessful.
Committee members who voted against the measure said the extra two years could make all the difference in developing smart guns – which are now being tested by police in select markets – for public use.
“You’re really cutting down on what I consider to be a reasonable amount of time,” said Patricia Foerster of the Maryland State Teacher’s Association.
Delegate Tim Hutchins, R-Charles County, who said the task force’s decisions were moving faster than he wanted, supported the motion only half- heartedly.
“If the technology progresses, then certainly the manufacturers will bring it forward,” Hutchins said. “(But) that’s a tough period of time to integrate this, even though the technology already exists.”
Committee chair Col. David B. Mitchell, State Police superintendent, reminded the panel that these are only recommendations to the governor and “nothing is set in stone.”
The task force also voted unanimously to include in its report a tax credit recommendation for Marylanders who buy gun safes, as well as for those who purchase weapons with integrated safety locks, from fiscal year 2000.
Additionally, the panel approved an earlier recommendation that by January 2002, any new handguns sold in Maryland must be equipped with an integrated safety device, like a combination lock attached to the gun’s handle or magazine. Panel members call it “an interim device” to bridge the gap between today’s handguns and tomorrow’s smart ones.
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