THE HARD-LINE gun gang revels in deriding new Maryland gun-safety proposals, no matter how sensible the ideas may be. But many gun makers and owners are standing apart. The latest recommendations are likely to come before the legislature next month, the work of a task force convened by Gov. Glendening. They would incorporate the newest firearms technology with basic requirements designed to reduce accidental deaths, suicides and incidents involving children.
One proposal, to trace ownership of weapons, would require anyone who sells a handgun in Maryland to give state officials a ballistic "fingerprint"--the unique signature groove markings made on bullets and casings every time the gun is fired. How intrusive is this simple procedure? Shop owners would send in a test-fired casing for each gun immediately before sale, allowing law enforcement authorities to compile a database for tracing weapons. While the system might not be airtight, police believe the information bank would speed their investigations significantly.
Other recommendations include requiring that locking devices be built into new handguns sold after Jan. 1, 2002, and that weapons sold after Jan. 1, 2003, incorporate any new "commercially available" technology to program a gun so it will fire only when used by its owner or other specified users. Financial incentives could be offered to manufacturers who speed up the new protections.
The task force also is calling for destruction of all guns confiscated by police; a prohibition against selling, bartering or exchanging police duty weapons; and establishment of a system to track health care costs of gun injuries. Anyone who committed a violent act as a juvenile would be prohibited from possessing a gun until age 30; anyone convicted of any misdemeanor or felony committed before turning 30 would be barred from gun ownership for 10 years.
As reasonable as these measures may be, lawmakers expect a tough battle to enact them. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph Vallario already is saying it won't be easy to persuade legislators to be the first in the country to enact certain requirements. Translation: NRA lobbyists will be at the ready. That ought to propel the governor and responsible leaders in the two houses to redouble their efforts to see that Maryland takes the lead in curbing deadly gunfire.