“We choose to take on gun violence this session because every life is precious, every life is needed,” he said. “Is there not something more that we could, and that we should, be doing?”
O’Malley has proposed an assault-weapons ban and new licensing requirements that would require gun purchasers to submit to digital fingerprinting. His bill would also seek to enhance school security and expand the number of categories of mental-health problems that can preclude state residents from owning guns.
Outside the State House, opponents of O’Malley’s plan made it clear that he would be in for a battle. Many adorned their clothing with “Guns Save Lives” stickers and lined up to sign petitions against the bill. Placards bounced to the rhythm of speeches. One woman held up a cardboard sign that said, “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny.”
Kelly Cook, 23, a college student from Arnold, held up a sign that said: “Why do you want to fingerprint me? I am not a criminal.”
“That’s what I want to ask Governor O’Malley,” she said.
More than 700 people on both sides of the issue signed up to testify before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.
Gun rights advocates began their testimony with numerous personal stories. Dozens of Marylanders testified that because of their size, employment, disability or neighborhood they feared life without the protection of a firearm. They said they considered O’Malley’s proposed restrictions burdensome, costly and an infringement of their constitutional right.
More than four hours into the hearing, a Connecticut-based lobbyist for the gun industry drew the most heated reaction from the Democratic-controlled panel.
“The restrictions in this bill are arbitrary. Nothing in it will prevent another Newtown or Columbine,” said Jake McGuigan of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, based in Newtown.
“You’re coming from Newtown, Connecticut, to tell us an assault-weapons ban would not save lives?” asked Sen. Brian E. Frosh (D-Montgomery).
Like others from the gun industry, McGuigan did not back down. He stressed that Connecticut has an assault-weapons ban and that the guns used in the shooting that killed 20 students there were legally owned by the killer’s mother.
With regard to Maryland, McGuigan cited homicide statistics from 2011 that showed just two of nearly 400 killings statewide were committed with rifles that could be banned under O’Malley’s legislation. Outside the hearing, the crowd in an overflow room applauded at the response.