Cumberland Times-News

April 4, 2013

Md. lawmakers pass strict gun control measure

BRIAN WITTE
Associated Press

— ANNAPOLIS — Maryland’s already-strong gun laws will become among the strictest in the nation with a measure passed by the General Assembly Thursday, sending the bill to the Democratic governor who proposed the legislation in the aftermath of December’s massacre at a Newtown, Conn., school.

The state Senate voted 28-19 for final passage, agreeing to a number of changes the House of Delegates approved Wednesday.

“Together, with a strong coalition of advocates, and the people of Maryland who overwhelmingly support policies to reduce gun violence, we’ve chosen to take action by advancing strategies that work to save lives,” Gov. Martin O’Malley said in a statement after the vote.

Maryland will become the first state in nearly 20 years to require people who buy a handgun to submit fingerprints to state police. Only five other states have a similar requirement:  Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey.

Gun control advocates say the fingerprinting requirement will help keep guns away from criminals, because it will make people reluctant to buy firearms for people who are not allowed to have them. Opponents say the bill erodes Second Amendment rights and ultimately penalizes law-abiding citizens without focusing on lawbreakers.

The measure also bans 45 types of assault weapons, although people who own them now will be able to keep them. People who order the weapons before Oct. 1, when the law would take effect, also would be able to keep them.

The measure limits gun magazines to 10 bullets. It also addresses firearms access for the mentally ill. People who have been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility won’t be allowed to have a gun.

Critics said Maryland already has strong laws, including universal background checks and a seven-day waiting period to buy a gun. The state doesn’t even have a loophole allowing for private sales at gun shows without the same background check that licensed dealers are required to obtain, said Sen. Allan Kittleman, R-Howard. “We have those protections, and what we’re doing here is basically saying to folks who are concerned about their Second Amendment rights is, you know, ‘We don’t care,”’ Kittleman said.

But Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, who spoke of his own gun collection, noted that people will be able to keep the guns they have, even the assault weapons under the ban.

“It doesn’t affect a single gun that anybody has,” Miller, D-Calvert, said.

Also on Thursday, Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed into law sweeping new restrictions on weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre there.