The rush to introduce

Believe it or not, the siren song of doing something – anything – to address problems which come to the public’s attention through sensational headlines is nearly as irresistible to politicians on the right as it is those on the left. Today I received another object lesson from an officeholder who rarely makes a move without the press being made aware of it; that would be Delegate Pat McDonough. He trumpeted three new bills he’s introducing; although the release says “introduces,” the deadline for pre-filing has passed so these would presumably get first reading early in the 2013 session:

  1. GUN OWNER PRIVACY ACT – This legislation will prohibit newspapers and other publications from printing personal or private information about firearm owners.
  2. CRIMINAL GUN CONTROL ACT – This legislation will prohibit early release, including parole, from incarceration of any offender convicted of committing a crime while using a gun.
  3. CAPITAL PUNISHMENT FOR MASS MURDERS ACT – This legislation will retain and mandate capital punishment for anyone convicted of committing a crime of mass murder.

Obviously #1 is in reaction to the news about a New York newspaper printing names and addresses of gun permit holders in two New York counties and #3 was likely brought on by the Sandy Hook massacre. Interestingly enough, if I were to handicap the chances of passage for any of the three bills I would say #2 has the best odds. All would likely wind up in Delegate Joe Vallario’s Judiciary Committee, although the Gun Owner Privacy Act could be placed in Economic Matters with Delegate Dereck Davis. Chances are all three will get a great view of the inside of the respective committee chair’s desk drawer, though.

It’s also worth questioning whether a bill such as the GOPA passes Constitutional muster. Obviously the publication of this information has created an uproar and the fear that, for some of those on the list, their well-being could be compromised. (Not all permit holders own guns, and not all weapons belong to law-abiding citizens.) Some could argue that the list represents a “no trespassing” sign for criminals because of the greater possibility that the resident is armed; on the other hand it also creates an enticing target for burglars who believe they can steal guns from the residence. Meanwhile, turnabout has become fair play for employees of the Journal-News.

The most contrarian bill of the three would be the last one, particularly since Governor O’Malley has no desire to stick the needle into any deserving criminal, let alone a mass murderer. That would be vetoed in a New York minute, especially since O’Malley is making all his moves with an eye on 2016.

But O’Malley could probably get behind #2 because it would make him appear tough on crime in Maryland. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if a substantially similar bill isn’t written by a Democrat and passed through the General Assembly, as sometimes happens when the “wrong” party writes a popular measure.

Without reading the bill text I can’t say whether I would support these bills, but insofar as their title suggests they generally seem to be aimed at a conservative electorate. (Carefully note, though, just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can’t always go by the bill name. One example: “The Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012,” which will lead to neither growth nor agricultural preservation.)

So we will see next month what other noise will be made by the boisterous Delegate from Baltimore County. No session is complete without a little of Pat McDonough’s grandstanding, whether the bills he introduces and supports have merit or not. Certainly he would argue that someone has to take the slings and arrows, and he seems to be one of the most willing to do just that.

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