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By James Drake

This coming October, the courts are going to decide if the Maryland State Police have the right to determine who gets or who doesn’t get a permit to carry a concealed firearm in our state.

The main issue is the part of the current Maryland concealed permit application that requires the applicant to prove he or she has a “good and substantial reason” to carry a concealed weapon.

You can’t just write down on the application, “Mr. Smith next door doesn't like me,” but rather, you have to submit real proof such as recent court actions or things like police reports proving Mr. Smith is some kind of certifiable crazed lunatic and has actually threatened you with bodily harm.

In many other states, a citizen may obtain a concealed gun carry permit simply by saying they want one. Of course, certain background checks must be passed and you have to have some kind of minimal safety training such as passing a hunter education class. In Virginia, you can even use a very simple online gun carry course as your proof of competency.

You don’t have to prove you can actually use a weapon safely or even hit the broad side of a barn in five shots. That’s just not part of the process.

As with a lot of things, there are two opposing views on this issue. On one side of the fence are the folks who don’t want any more guns on the streets and believe that loosening the Maryland concealed carry regulations would be an extremely dangerous act. On the other end are the people who say the Second Amendment already gives us the right to bear arms.

Just a few weeks ago, 12 people were killed and 58 more wounded in that Aurora, Colo., theater by a gunman who I guess pretended he was “The Joker” in some fictitious “Batman” movie. The gunman obtained his guns legally.

If the gun laws are tightened to have made him getting his guns much harder, that’s also going to make it more difficult for a perfectly sane target shooter or hunter to obtain any legal weapon we want.

Or, look at it this way: If somebody in that theater had a little .38 snub nose in their pocket or purse, maybe they could have taken out the shooter long before he killed so many totally innocent people.

I’m just glad I’m not in charge of deciding these things.

What really does concern me, however, is the lack of appropriate training required of people who legally obtain these concealed carry permits.

Only last month, a guy in New York City shoots and kills his old boss because he thought the boss didn’t promote that man’s new T-shirt line aggressively enough.

That shooter then walks away and two police officers come upon him at the Empire State Building and open fire when the killer pointed his pistol at them.

Now, you've got to figure these police officers have been trained properly. Their instruction was probably quite intensive in using their firearms. I’m guessing they even spend time every month or so at a range honing those shooting skills.

Well, these two officers shot that killer before he could get off another round himself, but they also wounded nine innocent bystanders in the process. Together, they fired 16 times, and three bullets hit other people, while the other six bystanders were injured by fragments of ricocheting police bullets.

Personally, I have no problem with the courts striking down that “good and substantial” reason clause in Maryland’s conceal carry application. I’d also have no issue with a far more comprehensive training requirement before the permit is actually issued. I also think those two New York City policemen ought to be given desk jobs for the rest of their careers.

Women are boosting numbers

For the first time in quite a long time, fishing is gaining more participants to the sport than are lost every year.

In a study recently completed, a net total of 800,000 new participants joined the ranks of fishermen, bringing the total of Americans who fished to 46 million, or 16.2 percent, of the population.

However, instead of writing “fishermen” above, it would probably be a bit more accurate to have put down “fisherwomen” for females, and children joining the ranks are actually adding the most new participants.

According to Leslie Nagao, vice president of marketing for the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation, “Families are searching to squeeze in quality time with each other whenever and wherever they can. Getting outdoors to fish and boat is a great way to do this. That’s one reason we believe women and younger parents are taking up the sport in growing numbers.”

According to The Outdoor Wire, other key findings in this study were:

*Fly fishing has the greatest amount of interest among newcomers, while saltwater fishing holds the interest of participants from youth through adolescence.

*Freshwater fishing is, by far, the most popular type of fishing among Hispanic Americans. Hispanic Americans fish the most often out of any fishing category or demographic group, averaging 20 fishing days per year.

*Typical of other outdoor activities, fishing participation rates peak between the ages of 6 and 12 and then decrease during the adolescent years from 13 to 17.

*81.8 percent of fishing participants 6 to 12 are introduced to outdoor activities by their parents. Almost 44 percent of youth fishing participants 6 to 17 also participate in boating.

*Fishing from a boat is the most popular activity among males over the age of 16.

*Multi-species boats surpassed bassboats as the most popular boat type at 26 percent for multi-species, followed by bassboats at 16.3 percent.

State fishing contest winners

This past Saturday, Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources gave away approximately $70,000 in money and merchandise to anglers who participated in the 2012 Maryland Fishing Challenge.

John Veil of Annapolis was the big winner, taking home a new boat/motor/trailer package from Bass Pro Shops.

For the “Diamond Jim” part of the contest, hundreds of tagged striped bass were released into the Chesapeake Bay during the summer and nine of these specially tagged stripers were caught during June, July and August. None of them proved to be the very elusive “Diamond Jim.” So, this year those nine lucky anglers who caught imposters split the $25,000 “Diamond Jim” award, each taking home $2,778.

If you happen to catch a citation-size fish in Maryland waters in the weeks ahead, have it measured at a certified weigh-in station for the 2013 Maryland Fishing Challenge is officially now underway and maybe you'll be a winner next year.

Congrats

Congratulations to Southern Maryland angler Robert Wedding of Welcome who finished in third place of the co-angler division in the big FLW EverStart event held on the Potomac River last weekend.

Wedding did well and would have won his division, and new Ranger boat, with only one more little 3-pound bass.

For his efforts, Wedding took home a check for $3,700.

Correction

In the Sept. 5 Outdoors column, “Get children active and outdoors,” one of the dates for the upcoming AP migratory Canada goose season was incorrect. The correct dates are Nov. 17 to 23 and Dec. 11 to Jan. 30.

zbasser@aol.com