ANNAPOLIS – Baltimore Police Agent Gene Cassidy has never seen his two children — he hasn’t seen anything since he was shot twice in the face by a convicted felon who had obtained a gun illegally.
Cassidy testified before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Tuesday about a bill that advocates say would curb third-party purchases of weapons. The bill would require gun owners to report the loss or theft of a weapon within 48 hours of discovering it missing.
In October 1987, Cassidy told lawmakers, he stopped a man who had an outstanding arrest warrant. They struggled and the man pulled a 357-caliber weapon out then fired two shots into Cassidy’s head, severing both optic nerves.
“Miraculously, I was able to survive,” Cassidy said.
Senators also heard from Montgomery Police Detective Kyle Olinger, who now uses a wheelchair after he was paralyzed from the chest down as the result of a shot from a man with an illegally obtained handgun.
The suspect who shot him obtained his gun from a man who filed no report for the stolen weapon and who had several other “stolen” guns involved in crimes, said Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jennie M. Forehand, D-Montgomery, cited cases like Olinger’s as the reason for the bill.
“We are trying to get rid of the straw purchases,” Forehand said. “We hope this will relate to those people who are buying guns to give them or sell them to criminals.”
“It is a burden to the criminal element, not the law-abiding citizen,” Cassidy said. “The person who shot me on that evening — he was a convicted felon.”
But opponents of the bill say everything about the bill, including its name, “Police Officer Protection Act of 2005” is a misnomer.
“It’s a bad bill. The title is shameless pandering,” said James M. Purtilo, a firearms and civil rights issues commentator. “It’s an obvious mislabel.”
“Obviously, this bill targets the law-abiding gun owner who ends up being a victim of a theft,” said Jennifer H. Palmer, the National Rifle Association of America’s state liaison. “No one who testified on this bill would have benefited by this law.”
“I don’t support the concept,” said Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick. “If somebody has a stolen gun, just because it is reported isn’t going to stop them from using it anyways.”
But, Sen. John A. Giannetti, D-Prince George’s, said while the bill is not properly named, its intent is valid.
The aim, he said, is to clamp down on the number of people who resell guns — known as straw men — for a profit.
“The public policy is to get rid of the straw-man transactions,” Giannetti said. “That is really what we are trying to fight and we are going to try to get to the core of that.”