ANNAPOLIS – Three gun restriction bills won support Thursday from the big gun himself — Montgomery County Chief of Police Charles A. Moose, one of the heroes of the Washington-area sniper investigation.
Moose, in a Lawyers’ Plaza news conference, lent his support to legislation to require the state’s ballistic fingerprint database to encompass all firearms, make gun owners report lost or stolen guns and ban all assault weapons, including military firearms.
“Gun violence continues to be a problem in Maryland,” Moose said. “These bills will not solve all the problems but they will help.”
Sonia Wills, the mother of Conrad Johnson, the final sniper victim and Montgomery County bus driver, told gun control opponents to look her in the eye and tell her the slogan of gun-control foes: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” The legislation is sensible and fair, she said.
“I am here because I am outraged,” Wills said. She held back tears as she described the family Johnson left behind. “None of these laws will bring my son Conrad back, but will go a long way to make sure the other parents and families don’t suffer like we have.”
Supporting gun control is something her son would want her to do, Wills said.
“Doing this makes me feel stronger, and I go to Conrad’s grave and say we’ve accomplished something,” Wills said.
Thirteen sniper shootings that left 10 people dead in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., in October have been connected to two suspects, John Muhammad, 42, and Lee Malvo, 17, who are facing trial in Virginia. Moose led the task force that arrested the men.
Legislators need to strengthen gun laws and do everything possible to ensure residents’ safety, said Leah Barrett, executive director of Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse, Inc.
“I am pleased to stand here to make our state a safer place . . . Military-style handguns belong in the hands of men and women of the military not in our neighborhoods.”
Some legislators hope to ban military assault weapons before the Federal ban expires in 2004.
“I am concerned that Congress and the president will not move to extend the ban, and as a result, these weapons will be back on the street,” said Sen. Rob Garagiola, D-Montgomery, who introduced the assault weapons ban bill Jan. 31.
Gun control opponents came to the news conference to say the legislation will not reduce crime or help catch criminals.
“We came to oppose the horrible gun laws. We don’t think it works. If is does, why are they asking for more,” said John Latham, spokesman for Anti- Statist Action, a non-partisan organization.
“(Moose) continuously said he can’t guarantee our safety so what are we supposed to do. I’m not real impressed with the competence of Maryland law enforcement . . . they are spending all this money to prohibit guns but its just more hoops to jump through,” Latham said.
Other opponents think it infringes on their Second Amendment right to bear arms.
“Hate to see our money wasted and our rights tramped upon,” said Bob Holden, spokesman for Montgomery Citizens For A Safer Maryland – a grassroots organization against gun control. “We have a tight budget, some kids are uninsured, and schools need money. This is a good way to waste money.”