A funny thing happened on the way to banning assault weapons in the deep blue state of Maryland. Some Democrats in the overwhelmingly-Democratic House of Delegates are considering amendments to reform the bill to carve out some exemptions. Given the composition of the state government, it may be the best bet that gun rights advocates in Maryland can realistically hope for in the short term, but to the Washington Post, it's a "gut[ting]" of Gov. O'Malley's proposal, even as House Democrats pushing changes say they are seeking to avoid banning guns merely on the basis of cosmetic features.
In his page B1 March 20 story, "Proposals would allow some semiautomatic rifles in Md.," staff writer Aaron C. Davis opened by lumping in "veterans and sportsmen" unfavorably with the Aurora, Colorado, theater shooter and the Beltway snipers by noting that "[s]ome semiautomatic rifles" that were "popular" with the former were used by the latter and could be legal under a revised gun ban in the Old Line State.
O'Malley's bill "is bogged down in a powerful committee of the House of Delegates, according to several committee members and other legislators," Davis groused. "The House Judiciary Committee has struggled to reach agreement on the definition of an assault weapon," the Post writer noted, adding that "Lawmakers said they could vote as soon as Wednesday to alter that part of the bill, which would gut a key provision of O'Malley's attempts to curb gun violence in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting."
Notice that, according to Davis, the governor's aim is to fight crime, while the aim of legislators seeking to amend the bill is to "gut" that bill. It's loaded language that places the white hat on O'Malley and casts his fellow Democrats -- who are pro-gun control, just not as stridently as Mr. O'Malley -- as the bad guys.
Continuing on the jump page, under the headline "Anti-gun measure mired in Md. House," Davis notes that:
Members are considering removing features common to many semiautomatic rifles modeled after military ones, potentially leaving such guns as the Colt AR-15 and its many copycats legal for purchase. Such weapons are used in only a small fraction of Maryland homicides but have become a symbol of gun-control efforts nationally.
“I believe the AR-15 is out,” said Del. Luiz R.S. Simmons (D-Montgomery), a committee member. “The committee has done a lot of work talking to both sides to try to figure out what are the features of the gun — not focused on the name like AK-whatever — but certain features that should be banned.”
As Davis himself notes, so-called assault rifles are rarely used in crime, it's just that banning them is a "symbol" of the gun-control lobby's national push for additional gun laws. But just a few grafs earlier, Davis was arguing that the amendments in question would "gut" a measure aimed at fighting gun crime. Which is it?
What's more, although Davis noted the logic of liberal Del. Kathleen M. Dumais (D-Montgomery) about having a limited assault weapons ban and how she was "swayed in part by the testimony of some of the more than 1,300 people who traveled to Annapolis this month to oppose the bill before her committee," at no point did the Post scribe talk to a gun-rights activist nor a Republican legislator who would rather than scrub any and all efforts at a gun ban. While Republicans do constitute a tiny minority of the state legislature, wouldn't pursuit of a balanced news story mean including at least one quote from a GOP official?
Mr. Davis should stick to objectively reporting the news and let his liberal editorial page do the political advocacy.