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Md. House passes gun-control bill

April 03, 2013|By KAUSTUV BASU | kaustuv.basu@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland House of Delegates approved a major gun control measure Wednesday banning assault weapons, requiring people who buy handguns to provide their fingerprints and limiting gun magazines to 10 bullets.

The House voted 78-61 for the bill, one of Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley’s priorities for the legislative session scheduled to end Monday at midnight.

All five Washington County delegates voted against the bill.

Some called the bill a de facto ban on handguns, while one local legislator said the piece of legislation is one among several that he might try and put on a referendum in the 2014 elections.

Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, said the bill, also known as the Firearm Safety Act of 2013, did not get to the heart of the matter when it comes to gun violence.

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“I think it is a burden to the average hunter in my county and makes it harder and harder for law-abiding citizens to play by the rules,” Donoghue said. “The criminals don’t play by the rules. If they want to get a gun, they are going to get a gun.”

Del. Neil C. Parrott, R-Washington, called the bill oppressive.

“As chairman of Mdpetitions.com, I’m looking at several bills that we might try to get signatures for to put on a referendum for the 2014 elections,” he said.

The gun control bill is one of them, Parrott said.

While there are differences between the House and Senate that would need to be reconciled before the legislature could send the measure to O’Malley for his signature, the main parts supported by gun-control advocates remained intact. They included the fingerprint requirement, which opponents repeatedly tried to take out of the measure. Lawmakers in the Senate and the House, both with strong Democratic majorities, rejected amendments that would have stripped the provision.

“As states that have this show, when handgun purchasers have to get a fingerprint license through the state police, they are much less likely to buy guns for criminals. These straw purchases are one of the main ways criminals get guns,” said Vincent DeMarco, president of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence.

Only five other states have a similar law — Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York, DeMarco said.

Del. Andrew A. Serafini, R-Washington, said he has never seen so much opposition to a bill during his time in the Maryland General Assembly.

“This bill should have been probably six or seven different bills,” Serafini said. “For people who don’t have guns, it is going to be more difficult and expensive to buy one. And the bill does nothing to make the enforcement of existing laws more stringent.”

Del. Michael J. Hough, R-Frederick/Washington, called the bill a de facto ban on handguns, while Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Washington/Allegany, said he feared the current bill was only the beginning.

“What I fear the most, and what I think is coming, is expansion of this bill in the years to come,” Myers said.

The bill only affects new guns now, but it might be expanded to cover all guns in the future, he said.

The bill also included an assault weapons ban for 45 guns, although people who own them or order them before the law takes effect in October would be allowed to keep them.

There are a number of differences the two chambers would have to work out. For example, the House legislation would require someone to report a lost or stolen gun within 72 hours. The House bill also would ban gun possession for anyone sentenced to probation before judgment for a violent crime.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the Senate would accept the House changes or whether a team of negotiators from both houses would be named to work through the differences.

O’Malley proposed the measure in the aftermath of December’s massacre at a Newtown, Conn., school, where a gunman killed 20 children and six adults before committing suicide.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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