Of­fi­cial: End weapon loop­hole

The type of gun used in Day­ton, Ohio, mass shoot­ing still le­gal in Mary­land

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Pamela Wood and Ian Dun­can

Mary­land’s at­tor­ney gen­eral is urg­ing law­mak­ers to up­date the state’s as­sault weapons ban to out­law the type of gun used in the re­cent mass shoot­ing in Day­ton, Ohio.

“It’s a loop­hole in our law,” said At­tor­ney Gen­eral Brian Frosh, who as a Demo­cratic state se­na­tor pushed for the pas­sage of the Firearm Safety Act of 2013, which out­lawed most as­sault weapons in Mary­land.

“It ’ s out­ra­geous,”

Frosh said. “That kind of weapon should not be on the streets, pe­riod.”

The man who opened fire Aug. 4 in an en­ter­tain­ment dis­trict in Day­ton, killing nine and in­jur­ing more than two dozen oth­ers, used an An­der­son Man­u­fac­tur­ing .223-cal­iber AM-15 gun, ac­cord­ing to po­lice in that city. It’s been de­scribed as an AR-15-style pis­tol.

The man­u­fac­turer has not sought ap­proval from the Mary­land Hand­gun Ros­ter Board to sell the ex­act model used in Day­ton — the .223-cal­iber AM-15, ac­cord­ing to Mary­land State Po­lice.

But the board, which re­views gun mod­els for their qual­ity and “util­ity for le­git­i­mate sport­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, self-pro­tec­tion, or law en­force­ment, ” has ap­proved for sale a sim­i­lar gun made by the com­pany, a .300-cal­iber AM-15.

Of­fi­cials with An­der­son Man­u­fac­tur­ing in He­bron, Ken­tucky, did not re­spond to a request for com­ment.

Frosh said he ini­tially thought that the model of gun used in Day­ton would be

banned un­der the com­pre­hen­sive 2013 Mary­land law. But af­ter fur­ther re­search, he’s con­cerned that it’s pos­si­ble the model could get ap­proved for sale here, es­pe­cially given that a sim­i­lar model is al­ready ap­proved.

Day­ton Po­lice Chief Richard Biehl said dur­ing a news con­fer­ence the day af­ter the shoot­ing that the gun “was mod­i­fied in essence to func­tion like a ri­fle ... and to avoid any le­gal pro­hi­bi­tions.”

Biehl said he was con­cerned that type of gun was avail­able to the pub­lic.

“It’s fun­da­men­tally prob­lem­atic,” he said. “To have that level of weaponry in a civil­ian en­vi­ron­ment, un­reg­u­lated, is prob­lem­atic.”

David Chip­man, a for­mer U.S. Bureau of Al­co­hol, To­bacco, Firearms and Ex­plo­sives spe­cial agent who now works for Gif­fords, a na­tional ad­vo­cacy group founded by for­mer U.S. Rep. Gabby Gif­fords, said man­u­fac­tur­ers have created such guns to get around laws that reg­u­late or limit sales of as­sault ri­fles.

Chip­man said the kind of gun used in Day­ton is not clas­si­fied as an as­sault ri­fle be­cause it has a shorter bar­rel and does not have a stock that reaches to the shoul­der. A user can at­tach a brace or fin that al­lows the pis­tol to be fired from the shoul­der, the way a per­son can fire a ri­fle. The Day­ton gun was clas­si­fied as a pis­tol, he said.

“This gun is, for all in­tents and pur­poses, the same as an AR-15 and it is ab­so­lutely deadly,” Chip­man said.

A fed­eral law, the Na­tional Firearms Act, re­quires a lengthy and ex­pen­sive reg­is­tra­tion re­quire­ment for some­one buy­ing cer­tain high-pow­ered ri­fles, Chip­man said. But when man­u­fac­tur­ers cre­ate high-pow­ered guns that are clas­si­fied as pis­tols, such as the AM-15, they don’t fall un­der that law, Chip­man said. They also some­times can get around state laws that ban as­sault weapons.

The Gif­fords or­ga­ni­za­tion has ad­vo­cated for a change in fed­eral law so the gov­ern­ment would reg­u­late as­sault pis­tols the way it does as­sault ri­fles. Chip­man said law­mak­ers must up­date laws to adapt to chang­ing tech­niques in weapons de­sign.

“This was a fore­seen prob­lem that peo­ple didn’t take ac­tion on, and here we are,” he said.

Chip­man pointed to a case in Mil­wau­kee, where a man was found guilty of murder for fa­tally shoot­ing a po­lice of­fi­cer serv­ing a search war­rant at his home. The man used an AK-47-style pis­tol.

Frosh said he thinks Mary­land law­mak­ers should re­visit and up­date the law to cover this type of weapon. He noted it’s been six years since the Gen­eral As­sem­bly passed the law and there have been changes in what weapons are avail­able.

“It’s rea­son­able to take a look at what the law in­cludes and doesn’t in­clude, and if there’s a gun that should not be avail­able for sale in Mary­land yet can be legally sold,” he said.

Mark Pen­nak, pres­i­dent of the gun own­er­ship ad­vo­cacy group Mary­land Shall Is­sue, said adding more re­stric­tions on guns won’t suc­ceed in re­duc­ing crime in Mary­land. He said mur­ders in­volv­ing guns have in­creased even as Mary­land has con­tin­ued to pass more gun con­trol laws.

“Ban­ning guns doesn’t work. All you have to do is look at Bal­ti­more ... I can go up in parts of Bal­ti­more and within 30 min­utes get pretty much any gun I want,” Pen­nak said. “The ‘Let’s ban it’ mantra doesn’t ac­com­plish any­thing.”

Del. Luke Clip­pinger, chair­man of the House of Del­e­gates Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, said he would in­ves­ti­gate whether the law should be up­dated.

“I’m still learn­ing about the gun. I don’t be­lieve it’s on the [banned] list,” said Clip­pinger, a Bal­ti­more Demo­crat. “I will learn more about why it wasn’t on the list and take a look at whether we should add it.”

Sen. Bobby Zirkin, chair­man of the Sen­ate Ju­di­cial Pro­ceed­ings Com­mit­tee, said the mass shoot­ings in Day­ton and else­where have him con­sid­er­ing mul­ti­ple ways to up­date state laws.

The Bal­ti­more County Demo­crat said he would “ab­so­lutely” con­sider whether as­sault-style pis­tols like the one used in Day­ton should be banned. He also wants to in­ves­ti­gate in­creas­ing civil li­a­bil­ity for in­di­vid­u­als or busi­nesses that sell weapons or am­mu­ni­tion used in crimes.

A spokesman for Gov. Larry Hogan, a Repub­li­can, did not di­rectly an­swer a ques­tion from The Bal­ti­more Sun about whether the gov­er­nor would sup­port up­dat­ing Mary­land’s as­sault weapons ban.

“The gov­er­nor has long sup­ported com­mon-sense mea­sures to keep guns out of the hands of crim­i­nals and the men­tally ill, and we will care­fully con­sider any leg­is­la­tion in­tro­duced by the Gen­eral As­sem­bly,” Hogan spokesman Mike Ricci said in a state­ment.

Ricci also re­peated Hogan’s push for longer sen­tences for vi­o­lent of­fend­ers who use guns, a pro­posal that Hogan has pro­moted with in­creas­ing fre­quency in re­cent weeks.

The gun­man in Day­ton used 100-round drum mag­a­zines that are il­le­gal to buy in Mary­land un­der the 2013 state law. The Mary­land law bans mag­a­zines with a ca­pac­ity of more than 10 rounds.

As a se­na­tor, Frosh was the lead­ing pro­po­nent of the as­sault weapons ban, which then-Gov. Martin O’Mal­ley, a Demo­crat, pro­posed in the wake of a mass shoot­ing at Sandy Hook El­e­men­tary School in New­town, Con­necti­cut, that killed 20 chil­dren and six adults.

Frosh was elected at­tor­ney gen­eral in 2014 and has suc­cess­fully de­fended the law in court against gun rights ad­vo­cates who ar­gued that it vi­o­lated the Sec­ond Amend­ment.

Frosh

AL­BERT CE­SARE/CINCINNATI EN­QUIRER

Mary­land At­tor­ney Gen­eral Brian Frosh wants the state’s as­sault weapons ban up­dated to cover the type of gun used in a mass shoot­ing last week­end in Ohio.

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