ANNAPOLIS – With a crucial Senate committee poised to dilute his smart gun proposal, Gov. Parris N. Glendening said Wednesday he may use legislative wiles to circumvent the uncooperative panel.
“What the governor wants and what the people of Maryland want are much stronger gun laws than what the committee has discussed,” said Michael Morrill, Glendening spokesman.
The governor’s smart guns proposal, which mandates only personalized handguns be sold in Maryland beginning in 2003, is four votes short of passage in the conservative 10-member Senate Judicial Proceedings committee.
Glendening and his staff had maintained until Wednesday that he had no plans to circumvent committee Chairman Walter Baker, D-Cecil. Glendening is now considering the option because Baker’s proposals water down the bill, Morrill said.
“There are many ways to work with the Senate leadership and still work with the chairman,” Glendening said.
Glendening would not say how the bill was weakened or name the legislators involved. But, Baker has made no secret of his objections.
For instance, a commission consisting of General Assembly members, the state police secretary and Glendening appointees would study the commercial availability of smart gun technology and make its recommendation to the governor. Baker said he wants the authority given to the General Assembly.
He also wants the state, not customers, to bear the cost of ballistics testing the bill requires manufacturers to do before shipping. And while he has no objection to the mandatory handgun training the measure requires, people should not have to pass a test to own guns.
“You could make (the test) so tough even Wild Bill Hickok couldn’t pass it,” he said, arguing it would constitute a de facto ban.
Glendening said there were numerous ways to pass smart guns without approval from Baker’s committee. Baker had no comment.
The governor could use a legislative procedure to allow the whole Senate to vote on the measure. Another option is to tack the proposal onto another bill in the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, Morrill said.
However, Chairman Barbara Hoffman, D-Baltimore, said last week she would not allow it.
Earlier in the day, the bill faced its first battle in Baker’s committee. Proponents and opponents thrashed it out, often contradicting each other on facts and statistics. They quarreled mainly over whether the technology is available and can be implemented in three years, an issue never resolved.