Cumberland Times-News

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January 11, 2014

Kelly bill would make it legal to travel in state with banned firearms

CUMBERLAND — Comprehensive gun-control legislation passed last year in Maryland is so broad that it makes traveling through the state with assault weapons on the way to shooting competitions, and other events, a crime, said Del. Kevin Kelly.

Kelly has introduced House Bill 122 in an effort to protect gun owners from ending up being charged with crimes for traveling in the state to use their weapons for harmless purposes. The only exception to last year’s law is for weapons purchased in another state before the new law became effective in October.

“You’re criminalizing lawful behavior by law-abiding citizens,” Kelly said of the existing law.

The law does not affect Maryland residents, but in this area, it can have a big impact on members of gun clubs and other organizations who live across the border in Pennsylvania and West Virgina. The Fort Hill Rifle and Pistol Club was cited by Kelly as an example. One of its ranges is near the Bedford County, Pa., border, Kelly said. The club has members from both Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

“If you lawfully purchase an AR-15 in Pennsylvania and bring it down to the range, and are stopped for a traffic violation, you could be arrested,” Kelly said. “You can’t come down and participate in a firearms competition.”

Kelly’s bill was scheduled for a first reading in the House Judiciary Committee on Friday.

When the gun control legislation came up last year, Kelly said he was assured the bill would not limit the transport of assault weapons into the state for competitions. After the law was passed, Maryland State Police said such transport was prohibited. The Maryland State Police website affirms that position.

“A person may not transport an assault weapon into Maryland for target competition unless the person lawfully possesses, has a purchase order for, or applied to purchase the weapon before October 1, 2013. Federal law allows a person to transport a firearm through Maryland but not to Maryland if the firearm is not in compliance with state law,” according to a Frequently Asked Questions section on the Maryland State Police site. Kelly opposed the gun control bill passed last year.

Kelly’s bill would reverse that portion of the law with the following language by allowing: “possession or transportation by a nonresident of the state of an assault weapon or detachable magazine that has been legally purchased outside the state for the purpose of: using the assault weapon or detachable magazine to participate in an organized military activity, a target shoot, formal or informal target practice, or a sport shooting event.” The bill would also allow transport to a repair shop or if traveling through the state for another lawful purpose, Kelly said.

Kelly’s is not the only firearms-related bill already filed in the General Assembly, but another bill has a very different tone. House Bill 115 would create a task force to study and make recommendations “regarding the feasibility, utility, benefits, and costs of using GPS technology to track and monitor firearms sold and possessed in Maryland.” The bill is being sponsored by Delegate Frank M. Conaway Jr. of Baltimore City. Kelly said he does not believe the GPS study bill will pass.

Matthew Bieniek can be contacted at mbieniek@times-news.com.

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