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Passionate Debate Puts Assault Weapons In The Line Of Fire

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Prince George's County is taking aim at gun shows. The county has canceled all gun shows for now because of proposals to change state and federal weapons laws. This decision by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission--which manages parks and land in the county--is being called a security measure. The commission says it wants to see what new gun regulations may pass and what those mean for future gun shows.

Governor Martin O'Malley's proposal to ban assault weapons is surely one of the most controversial items on the agenda in Annapolis.

Vic Carter explores the passionate debate that's putting assault weapons in the line of fire.

Aurora, Colo. triggered a call for action.

"It is clear we are not doing enough," said Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson. "America, we are not doing enough."

After Newtown, Conn., the call got louder.

"These are weapons of war. They belong on a battlefield, not our streets," said Senator Chuck Schumer.

But gun owners struck back, worried their right to own weapons was being attacked.

"I don't believe you can truly satisfy the people that are anti-gun until there's no guns around," said Tracy Carban.

Guns are a part of everyday life for Carban and her family in Harford County. Several times a week, they practice firing their AR-15 and other guns.

"It's smooth. It's just fun to shoot," Carban said. "It's something we do as a family. We come out as a family and we shoot together."

But Carban and other gun enthusiasts are on edge.

"Maryland is supposed to be the free state," said Senator Nancy Jacobs. "If this bill passes, Maryland will no longer be the free state!"

Thousands stormed Annapolis, outraged over Governor O'Malley's bill banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

"Absolutely [I'm concerned]," Carban said. "I won't have the ability to defend myself and my daughter when we're home by ourselves."

But passions run just as deep for those who want limits on guns.

"What about my rights? I don't have a gun. What about my safety?" said Charles Schwenz.

Schwenz admits he hates guns. That hatred grew deeper 12 years ago when a mentally disturbed man shot and killed his son Jason, a Queen Anne's County Sheriff's deputy.

"He was 28 and on the force 18 months," Schwenz said.

Schwenz believes his son would be alive today if the state had tighter controls on guns.

"There's millions of guns in our society and why they're there, it just boggles my mind," Schwenz said.

Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson pushed the issue to the national spotlight representing law enforcement across America. He says there's no good use for certain weapons.

"Assault weapons and large-capacity magazines are not used for hunting," Johnson said. "As we have seen too frequently lately, they are being used for mass murder."

Gun enthusiasts argue that stricter gun laws favor criminals.

"You take guns away from law-abiding citizens, you give criminals the power," Carban said.

But Schwenz thinks an America without guns would be better for everyone.

"Grow up," he said. "Lose your son to a gun and then tell me how you feel."

Both the House and Senate versions of the assault weapons ban are scheduled to have hearings the first week of March.

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