ANNAPOLIS – Gun control advocates rallied at the State House Wednesday to push for a bill to require handgun buyers to get a license similar to a driver’s license.
“We’ve come to make our voices heard and to tell our legislators that the bloodshed and the carnage in our neighborhoods must stop,” said Ginni Wolf, executive director of Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse at a rally in Lawyer’s Plaza.
Wolf and about 20 members of the anti-gun lobby asked legislators to pass the Maryland Gun Accountability Act, which would require gun owners to obtain a seal for their state identification cards or driver’s licenses signifying approval to purchase a firearm.
The bill would require the Motor Vehicle Administration to issue the seal to Marylanders who are at least 21, who have completed a safety-training course and who have passed a criminal history check.
Proponents said the licenses would make gun owners more accountable and give law enforcement another crime-fighting tool by making it harder for criminals to buy guns.
“It’s about saving the lives of Marylanders, especially Maryland children,” said Sen. Christopher Van Hollen Jr., D-Montgomery. “We cannot wait for the federal government to do this. We’ve been a leader on this issue.”
Van Hollen was a key shepherd of Gov. Parris N. Glendening’s 2000 gun- safety package, which mandates trigger locks on handguns.
Advocates argued Wednesday that they did not want to penalize legal gun owners.
“It takes guns out of the hands of criminals,” said Delegate Mark K. Shriver, D-Montgomery.
Gun owners said the bills would not benefit law enforcement.
Greg Costa, a lobbyist for Maryland’s National Rifle Association, accused Shriver and Van Hollen of pushing the bills for political reasons. Both legislators are vying for Republican U.S. Rep. Connie Morella’s congressional seat this year.
“It’s about a couple of legislators who are running for Congress trying to show that they are doing something,” Costa said. “Obviously criminals are not going to be licensed to carry guns, so who are the targets?”
Gun control advocates and gun owners will clash next week in hearings on the gun control bills.
Advocates said they are hopeful the bills will pass this year, but if not, they’ll keep trying.
“It will happen,” said Lillian Nolan, president of the Montgomery County Million Mom March.
“Too many lives have been lost and too many more are at stake.”
– 30 – CNS-3-6-02