A bill submitted to the Maryland General Assembly that would add 20 years to a criminal’s prison sentence if he uses a so-called “assault rifle” when committing a violent crime amounts to “frivolous pandering to anti-gun extremism,” the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA) said today.

The measure, sponsored by Sen. Rob Garagiola (D-Montgomery County), got a quick endorsement from Montgomery County State’s Attorney Douglas Gansler. The prosecutor told reporters that Garagiola’s bill “is not about gun control. This bill is about putting people who ought to be in jail behind bars.”

“That’s ridiculous,” CCRKBA Executive Director Joe Waldron fired back. “This bill is about demonizing a specific type of firearm because of its appearance. It should make no difference what kind of firearm a criminal uses. If that individual is caught and convicted, he ought to be locked up for a very long time, regardless of the kind of gun he used. Senator Garagiola is simply attempting to blame a certain type of firearm for the criminal actions of the person using it, and it’s nonsense.”

CCRKBA Chairman Alan Gottlieb commented, “Enhancing a prison sentence because somebody uses a semiautomatic rifle instead of a different type of firearm is based solely on the ‘blame-the-gun’ mentality. Senator Garagiola evidently ignored last year’s report from the Department of Justice that the ban on so-called ‘assault weapons’ would not make a significant difference in the level of violent gun crime. Garagiola, and Mr. Gansler both need to focus on punishing the criminal, no matter what he may have in his hand at the time he commits a violent crime.”

“Baltimore State’s Attorney Patricia Jessamy said the use of so-called assault rifles in crimes is a serious problem,” Waldron noted. “I’d say the use of any kind of a firearm in the commission of a crime is a serious problem. The idea that society should punish a gun, which is essentially what the Garagiola bill attempts to do, demeans other crime victims. Are we supposed to tell those people, ‘Sorry, you only got stabbed, or beaten with a club, or shot with a revolver, so the guy who did that will get out of prison sooner’? That kind of reasoning is patently offensive. Senator Garagiola should take his proposal back to the drawing board and start over.”