BERLIN — The effort to make Maryland’s gun control laws among the toughest in the nation moved closer to becoming reality when the House passed the governor’s legislation by a 78-61 vote.
After hours of often contentious debate, the House of Delegates last week passed Governor Martin O’Malley’s Firearm Safety Act of 2013 by more than enough votes to cover the 71 needed to pass the legislation. The bill passed the Senate in March by a vote of 28-19 and with the passage by the House last week, the legislation is now headed back to the Senate for a reconciliation of some relatively minor differences and is expected to head to the governor’s desk for final approval.
In the wake of the school shooting tragedy in Connecticut last December O’Malley introduced legislation in the General Assembly increasing the licensing requirements for handgun purchases, banning the sale of assault-style weapons, limiting gun ownership of people with a history of mental illness and increasing the amount of information sent to databases for background checks.
When the governor signs the bill as expected, Maryland’s gun laws will be among the most restrictive in the country. Maryland will become one of just states in the nation to require a license and training for would-be gun purchasers along with a requirement for fingerprinting. The bill would, among other things, also limit the number of bullets in a gun’s magazine to 10.
The legislation passed despite fierce opposition from all corners of the state claiming the bill infringed on the Second Amendment rights of Marylanders. Prior to the Senate passage two weeks ago, thousands signed up to testify against the bill including a large contingent from Worcester County and the Lower Shore. Late last week, the House debated the issue for nearly 10 hours as opponents attempted to add amendments aimed at lessening the bill’s bite, but the legislation passed largely in the original form presented by the governor.
Delegate Mike McDermott (R-38B) was among the minority who voted against the legislation. McDermott said this week citizens in rural areas of the state could expect some significant changes with the bill’s passage.
“So, the deer rifle you hunt with this year could find itself on the banned list next year depending on the interpretation of a board of bureaucrats appointed by our gun-loathing governor,” he said. “Of course, all of this is in the name of public safety in a state where no one has been murdered with one of these ‘bad’ guns.”
McDermott said after Oct. 1 of this year, Marylanders who want to purchase a regulated firearm will need to submit to fingerprinting and an extensive background check by the Maryland State Police. There will also be a fee associated with the process that could total anywhere from $100 to $400 depending on the final version of the legislation.
McDermott was one of three Delegates who offered the most amendments to the version of the legislation passed by the Senate. Going into the debate, the House leadership told Delegates they wanted no attempts at amending the bill as presented, but McDermott and his colleagues crafted and presented a dozen or more changes in an attempt to soften the bill’s impact.
“We altered some of the amendments previously crafted and added a few more,” he said this week. “When I consider that the leadership wanted no amendments during the voting session, and a joint session at that, I did not like our chances, but I focused on amendments that made a lot of sense.”