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Md. legislators wary of president's proposals

January 16, 2013|By KAUSTUV BASU | Kaustuv.basu@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS — Even as President Obama unveiled a series of gun control measures Wednesday, members of the largely Republican Washington County delegation in the state capital said they were skeptical of the president’s actions.

Some said that a ban on assault weapons was not going to work, while one legislator said that criminals and psychopaths were not going to follow the proposed laws.

“A lot of these liberal legislators have a anti-gun mentality anyways, they take tragedies like what happened in Newtown … and unfortunately they exploit it for political purposes,” said Del. Michael Hough. R-Frederick/Washington.

Hough said he is a member of the National Rifle Association, and his Annapolis office displays a rug with the NRA logo on it.

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The delegate said his constituents, including hunters and sportsmen, were going to be affected by the new legislation being proposed in the state and Washington, D.C.

“They are the people who are going to be punished by these gun laws,” Hough said.

He said that the new legislation being talked about were a suspension of reality and logic.

Besides the gun-control policies announced by President Obama on Wednesday, the State House in Annapolis has been abuzz with talk of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s likely legislative proposals on gun control.

But Del. Andrew Serafini, R-Washington, and chairman of the county’s legislative delegation, said the proposed legislation wasn’t addressing the real issues.

“We cannot regulate ... there are no laws that could fully prevent what happened … Connecticut had some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country,” he said.

Serafini said there are enough gun laws on the books right now, but not all of them are always enforced.

“We would have to ban almost everything and it still might not work ... we have underfunded psychiatric care,” Serafini said, adding that improving mental health care might be one way of addressing the issue of gun-related violence.

Sen. Ron Young, D-Frederick/Washington, is one local legislator who said previously that he supports an assault weapons ban nationally.

Another legislator, Del. LeRoy Myers Jr., R-Washington/Allegany, said Wednesday morning that he wanted to focus on the how the mentally unstable could be prevented from having guns.

Del. John Donoghue, D-Washington, said he too wanted to focus on the mental health issues related to guns.

Donoghue said he has many friends who are hunters.

“But I don’t think you need an assault weapon to kill a squirrel,” he said.

He talked about the need for stricter mental health screening, just like many people go to their doctor once a year for a physical screening.

Sen. Christopher Shank, R-Washington, said he does not support a ban on assault weapons and called for a thoughtful and measured response to the Connecticut shooting.

“There is a lot in here that I do not like,” Shank said, referring to the president’s proposals.

But Shank said he liked the idea of having a comprehensive national database on those with serious mental illnesses and restricting their access to firearms.

 “I don’t always agree with president, I very rarely do, but that is something we do need to look at,” Shank said.

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