ANNAPOLIS – Gov. Parris N. Glendening said Friday that Smith & Wesson’s agreement with the federal government to sell smart guns within three years proves the technology is available and should be mandated for all guns sold in Maryland.
Glendening praised the Clinton administration for brokering the deal and said the announcement should squelch the main argument against smart guns – that the technology allowing the guns to be fired only by authorized users is not available.
“It demonstrates that our gun (proposal) is not only feasible, but is the timetable that the largest gun manufacture agreed is realistic,” he said.
Smith & Wesson agreed to develop and sell smart guns within three years, according to the White House announcement Friday.
At the crux of Glendening’s proposal is a mandate that only smart guns be sold in Maryland by 2003.
Glendening’s smart gun proposal is being held up by the conservative Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. The governor had been working with committee Chairman Walter Baker, D-Cecil, to craft compromise legislation to ensure passage, but earlier this week Glendening announced Baker’s proposals were too weak and that he would look for other ways to bring them to the full Senate. Baker then ordered most gun bills held so Glendening had no vehicle to get his legislation to the floor.
Glendening is using the federal agreement to bolster his argument that his legislation is reasonable and doable.
“The only legitimate … debate was whether or not it is technologically available,” he said. “Now, it’s clear that the technology is and will be there.” The Smith & Wesson deal also calls for external safety locks to be sold with all guns in 60 days, internal locks in two years and a number of other safety provisions.
Smith & Wesson, the country’s largest gun maker, agreed to manufacture safer guns in exchange for the guarantee that pending local, state and federal government lawsuits would be dropped and no new suits would be brought.
However, Beretta USA Corp., located in Prince George’s County, has vehemently opposed Glendening’s measure. The agreement did not change its position, said Jeff Reh, Beretta chief counsel. But, Reh would not comment on what the agreement would mean to the company on the federal level.
If Beretta continues to drag its feet by not developing the technology fast enough, Glendening said, it could miss out on lucrative patent rights. Glendening’s proposal includes $3 million to help fund Beretta’s research, but the company has said it doesn’t want the money if it’s tied to a mandate.
“What we’re saying to Beretta … is we’ll help you pay for it,” he said.
Beretta already puts external trigger locks on all its guns, but has yet to be able to design internal locks or smart guns, Reh said.
“If Smith & Wesson has a viable internal lock for their firearms we’d like to see what it is,” he said.
Glendening drew similarities between the Smith & Wesson agreement and the tobacco settlement between the states. At first, he said, the tobacco industry denied nicotine was addictive and that it had manipulated the nicotine content in cigarettes. But, after one company admitted to the charges, the rest were forced to follow.
Like tobacco, guns are a public health issue, he said, and the debate shouldn’t be clouded by technological jargon. He cited the late February shooting of a first-grader by a classmate in Michigan as an example.
“I want people not to focus on these ‘what-if’ questions, but focus on the picture of those two 6-year-olds,” he said.