ANNAPOLIS – A Senate committee killed a bill Friday to ban assault weapons, effectively ending the measure’s chances for passage this year.
The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee snuffed the bill 5-6, with Sen. John Giannetti, D-Prince George’s, the deciding vote.
“It was a tough decision-making process,” said Giannetti. “If this were to get passed in the House of Delegates and Senate, it wouldn’t become law because Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. wouldn’t support it.”
On the House side, the companion bill sponsored by Delegate Neil Quinter, D-Howard, has languished in the Judiciary Committee without a vote.
The bills would have prohibited ownership of military-styled weapons, including the AK-47 and Streetsweeper, and extended a federal assault weapons ban that is expiring in September.
Quinter said he was disappointed the bill was shelved.
Gun proponents, who showed up in force at hearings on the issue, were gleeful at the defeat of the bill sponsored by Sen. Rob Garagiola, D-Montgomery. They called the legislation “unnecessary” and said it would infringe on their Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms.
Garagiola said Friday his bill was a “common sense measure” reauthorizing the 1994 federal ban. He produced a last-minute amendment listing 19 specific banned weapons, including “semi-automatic” assault guns.
The federal legislation has been effective in keeping overwhelming firepower off the streets, Garagiola said, quoting federal statistics that show a 66 percent drop in circulation of such weapons.
Garagiola tried to pitch his bill, running down a list of supporters for the reauthorization of the federal ban, including President Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick, responded saying “most crimes are committed by handguns.”
The committee also debated whether State Police supported the bill.
Garagiola said he’d done his background research and the State Police had enthusiastically supported the assault pistol ban in 1994, and they continue to support reauthorization of the federal ban.
“Every major police organization supports this bill,” said Garagiola.
But Giannetti said he cast his deciding vote against the legislation because it was consistent with the State Police and the Fraternal Order of Police position.
Judicial Proceedings Chairman Brian E. Frosh, D-Montgomery, has supported the idea saying, “There’s no societal reason for people to have these assault weapons.” Hunters can still hunt, he said, and the Second Amendment is not being overturned.