Gun bill supporters seek to sway delegates

About 9 a.m. Saturday, Bonny Eisenbise strode up to a man outside a Giant supermarket in North Baltimore.

"We're trying to get guns off the street," she told him, offering a yellow flier that asked in bold type: "Haven't we had enough gun violence?"

"Yeah, I'm with you," said the shopper, David Kehoe, who promised her that he would call his state delegate.

With that, Eisenbise scanned the parking lot, looking for more recruits in a last-minute lobbying push to support Gov. Martin O'Malley's gun control bill, which would ban the sale of assault-type rifles and require a license to purchase a handgun, among other changes. The Senate approved an amended bill this month, sending it to the House of Delegates.

The bill is before two House committees, Judiciary and House and Government Operations, and committee votes could come this week.

Eisenbise, a volunteer with Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, joined fellow gun control backers around Maryland in urging people to call or email their state delegate.

One goal was to counter the visibility of gun rights advocates who flooded Annapolis to protest the legislation, which would give Maryland one of the strictest firearm laws in the country. "The opponents of the bill are so loud," she said. "They're way outnumbered but are so loud and so angry that I'm afraid their voices are going to be heard over the voices of the majority."

But there was a reason she and fellow advocate Mary Jo Kirschman chose the Giant on West 41st Street to leaflet. The store is near three legislative districts whose delegates — Frank M. Conaway Jr., Jill P. Carter and Curt S. Anderson, all Democrats and all on the Judiciary Committee — have not clearly stated their position on O'Malley's bill, the women said.

Conaway and Anderson could not be reached for comment Saturday. Carter said she backs the governor's legislation — "I support the bill" — but wants to hear from a work group studying the bill and is open to possible amendments.

"If there are other reasonable changes suggested from our work group, I'm amenable to them," Carter said.

Among the provisions she's heard concerns about is one that would fingerprint all would-be handgun buyers as part of a new licensing requirement. Another is the four hours of training someone would have to complete before purchasing a handgun.

Because she was in legislative hearings Saturday, Carter didn't know whether the leafleting had generated any calls to her office. She said the only question for her is whether any amendments emerge that she likes.

"My constituents have overwhelmingly requested support for the governor's bill," she said. "If it's something they overwhelmingly want, it's my obligation to do so."

Kirschman wants the bill passed without more changes, saying "you can kill a bill with amendments," even good ones, because of legislative politics.

Outside the Giant, she got a warm reception from retirees Lois and Michael Mark, who live in Mount Washington. "We're glad they're pushing back against" the National Rifle Association, he said.

His wife said seeing so many gun rights supporters in Annapolis "makes us feel guilty, like we should be there." While she's optimistic the House will pass the bill, she left with a new item on her to-do list: Contact Carter.

"We'll give her a call," she said.

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