Group that led previous Maryland petition drives says it won’t take on guns bill


Wicomico County Sheriff Michael A. Lewis holds up his 'Guns & Ammo' magazine as he speaks to other Second Amendment supporters at a March rally outside the Maryland State House. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
April 17, 2013

The group that led efforts to petition three measures to Maryland’s ballot last fall announced Wednesday that it would not attempt to force a public vote on Gov. Martin O’Malley’s recently passed gun-control legislation.

MDPetitions.com said it would instead support a promised court challenge of the new law by the National Rifle Association.

Del. Neil C. Parrott (R-Washington), chairman of MDPetitions.com, said the decision was reached after consultation with several gun-rights groups that believe the law championed by O’Malley (D) violates the 2nd Amendment.

“This needs to be solved in the courts,” Parrott said at an event Wednesday night in Jessup, where he announced the decision. “We don’t want to take a constitutional right to people to vote on.”

The law, which is scheduled to go into effect Oct. 1, will give Maryland some of the nation’s most restrictive gun measures in the wake of the December school shooting in Connecticut.

The state will ban 45 types of semiautomatic rifles, classifying them as assault weapons, as well as magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. It also will require those seeking to buy any gun other than a hunting rifle or shotgun to obtain a license, a process that will include submitting fingerprints to police, passing classroom and firing-range training and undergoing more extensive background checks.

Parrott said it remains possible that some other group will spearhead a petition drive on the guns legislation. And he declined to comment on whether MDPetitions.com will seek to overturn any other laws passed in the 90-day legislative session that ended last week.

He said his group — which pioneered the use of Web-based technology to collect signatures — is still looking at several bills, including one sponsored by O’Malley that repeals the death penalty in Maryland.

“I’d love to not do anything,” Parrott said. “It’s excruciating to get something on the ballot.”

Under the Maryland constitution, recently passed laws can be petitioned to the ballot by gathering signatures from the equivalent of 3 percent of those who voted in the last race for governor.

For laws passed this year, that would mean collecting 55,736 signatures. The deadline for turning in the first one-third of those is May 31. The balance would have to be submitted by June 30. Measures would appear on the November 2014 ballot.

O’Malley’s gun legislation drew thousands of protesters to Annapolis, creating a ready-made pool of potential petitioners. But an opinion survey showed that facets of the bill were very popular with the general public.

A Washington Post poll in February found that 85 percent of Maryland voters backed O’Malley’s gun licensing plan and that 73 percent said they did “strongly.”

Voters across the state also supported banning high-capacity ammunition clips and assault weapons, two other portions of O’Malley’s bill.

MDPetitions.com played the lead role in collecting signatures two years ago on a measure that extended in-state tuition rates to undocumented immigrants under certain conditions. Last year, the group was also instrumental in petition drives that put same-sex marriage and a congressional redistricting plan on the ballot.

Voters upheld all three new laws in November.

John Wagner has covered Maryland government and politics for The Post since 2004.
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