After 10 hours of intense debate, the Maryland Senate passed Governor Martin O’Malley’s gun control measure handily late Thursday afternoon, 28-19, with all 12 Republicans and a handful of Democrats voting against the bill. The measure will be debated in the House next week, with passage nearly certain. After O’Malley signs the bill into law it will make Maryland’s gun laws among the most restrictive in the nation, putting the lie to the state’s moniker, “The Free State.”
Maryland is also the nation’s wealthiest state, and its citizens currently have registered more than 1,200,000 of their firearms with the state under previous law. The new legislation will require gun owners, as well as new purchasers of firearms, to get fingerprinted, take eight hours of classroom study, and pay for a more extensive background check. In addition, no one will be able to buy a so-called “assault weapon” or purchase a magazine that holds more than 10 rounds. The bill will also tighten up limits on gun ownership by residents committed against their will for mental health treatment.
When O’Malley announced his proposal in January, he said that the requirements in it were “common-sense gun safety measures … [that] will give us the tools to combat… violence" but would also protect Marylanders’ Second Amendment rights. They were also touted as somehow being able to rein in criminal ownership of guns and reducing the firepower of those remaining in the hands of the public. At O’Malley’s public announcement, Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson, a member of Vice President Joe Biden’s “National Law Enforcement Partnership,” said that that group “has been calling for background checks for all firearms purchasers, as well as a ban on semiautomatic assault weapons and ammunition magazines in excess of ten rounds… We must do all we can to ensure that we keep guns out of the wrong hands and that we keep excessive firepower out of our communities.”
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