Maryland legislature turns attention to other 78 gun bills

And now, for Maryland’s other gun bills - - all 78, and counting.

Hundreds of gun-rights advocates descended on Annapolis Tuesday — but for a change, not to protest Gov. Martin O’Malley’s (D) planned gun-control legislation. At least, not directly.

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After more than 45 hours of hearings and debate on O’Malley’s plan in recent weeks, the legislature turned its attention on Tuesday to scores of other bills that lawmakers have piled on in hopes of passing them alongside the governor’s.

One would require all gun owners in Maryland to get liability insurance. Another would force them to lock up firearms at home. Yet others would heavily tax ammunition; force gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms; outlaw exotics bullets, and further restrict access to firearms by the mentally ill.

On the Republican side, dozens more seek to counter O’Malley’s plan with bills intended to water down the governor’s legislation. One measure would carve out exemptions to restrictions for armored car drivers, another would do the same for police and military. Several would undo some or all of the state’s restrictive concealed carry law.

“I want to know what other constitutional right you’d dare tax,” asked Del. Michael D. Smigiel (R-Cecil), questioning Del. Jon S. Cardin (D-Baltimore) about his proposal to add a surcharge on firearm purchases and permit applications to increase funding for mental health programs.

Cardin called the idea, backed by mental health professionals, “common sense.”

O’Malley’s bill, which passed the Senate last month with more than 40 amendments, remains the main piece of gun-control legislation.

It would require gun owners to submit to fingerprinting, training and additional background checks to obtain a license to buy a gun. It would also outlaw sales of many semi-automatic rifles, classifying them as assault weapons. And it would ban gun sales to any Marylander committed against his will for psychiatric treatment, and some who agree to voluntary admission if they end up in an emergency room for such issues.

The governor’s measure is now in the House where some additional bills heard Tuesday in the Judiciary Committee are likely to be added to O’Malley’s.

One that is gaining traction, lawmakers said, is a proposal to require gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms within 72 hours of when the owner discovers the loss or theft.

O’Malley’s office filed testimony in favor of that measure. His office of crime control and prevention also weighed in favoring laws to ban sales of Teflon-coated bullets and to force better record keeping of all ammunition sales in the state.

The National Rifle Association testified against every measure, except the one to limit some kinds of armor-piercing bullets.

Weather permitting, the hearings on the additional gun bills are scheduled to continue Wednesday in the Senate.

 
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