Maryland's Gun-Record scandal.(EDITORIALS)

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 21, 2002 | Go to article overview

Maryland's Gun-Record scandal.(EDITORIALS)


Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES

True to form, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who has cynically sought to exploit the recent sniper attacks for political gain against Republican gubernatorial foe Robert Ehrlich, is already looking for someone else to blame for the latest fiasco to befall her gubernatorial campaign - the revelation that Maryland this year failed to conduct background checks on hundreds of handgun buyers, mandated under the Brady Act.

Given that Mrs. Townsend (annointed by Gov. Parris Glendening as the state's crime czar) is relentlessly pounding away at Mr. Ehrlich's congressional votes against some gun-control measures and touting her own support for "common sense" regulations like background checks, the combination of hypocrisy and buffoonery involved in this nascent scandal are mindboggling.

The facts of the case, made public last week by House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, Wisconsin Republican, are as follows: For approximately six months out of this year, the Maryland State Archives refused to cooperate with the FBI in carrying out criminal background checks through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The deputy state archivist sent a March 12 letter to the FBI stating that the Maryland agency would no longer cooperate with NICS until it received $45,000 necessary to fund the background checks for one year.

It was not until early October that the Maryland Archives informed the FBI that it would agree to participate once again in the NICS, so long as funding from the federal government's National Instant Criminal History Improvement Program (NCHIP) was available. What Mr. Sensenbrenner would like to know - a question that the Glendening-Townsend administration has failed to answer satisfactorily - is how the state of Maryland spent the $6.7 million it has received from NCHIP since 1995. (The head state archivist says his agency received none of this money.)

"Are we to believe that Maryland could not find $45,000 to assist with NCIS checks? ... Maryland's policy endangered lives and threatened public safety," Mr. Sensenbrenner said in a statement Tuesday, requesting that the General Accounting Office investigate Maryland's handling of the funds. …

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