A group of leading liberal Maryland state senators vowed Wednesday to make a renewed push for an assault weapons ban, tighter regulations on firearms dealers and other gun control measures that their colleagues have rejected in recent years.
Members of the group, led by Sen. Brian E. Frosh (D-Montgomery), argued at a news conference at a Baltimore church that both public attitudes and legislative politics have changed dramatically since last week’s shootings in Newtown, Conn.
“I think when people see schoolchildren slaughtered, they get the message that things have to change,” said Frosh, chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and a likely Democratic candidate for attorney general in 2014.
The news conference came a day after Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) told reporters that he is likely to sponsor a bill on gun violence in the 90-day legislative session that starts Jan. 9. O’Malley was also scheduled to talk about the issue during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Hardball” late Wednesday.
A growing number of members of the House of Delegates are also calling for a far-reaching debate on gun control in the upcoming session, including Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg (D-Baltimore), who appeared with the senators at the news conference.
Sen. Lisa A. Gladden (D-Baltimore) acknowledged that some of the proposals being contemplated on the state level mirror what President Obama is talking about on the federal level. But Gladden, vice chairwoman of Frosh’s committee, said state lawmakers can’t take for granted that Congress will act.
“In the event they don’t do what they’re supposed to do, we as leaders in Maryland are going to do it for them,” Gladden said.
A proposal advanced by Frosh would give the Maryland State Police new authority to inspect the inventory of gun dealers, a task now performed inadequately, he said, by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
That tool, he argued, would help crack down on missing guns that wind up being used to commit crimes.
A similar bill passed the Senate during the last 90-day legislative session but ran into resistance in the House.
Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery) said at the news conference that he would push for a ban on “military-style assault weapons,” a measure that did not advance out of either chamber in the last session.
“The streets of Baltimore should not be treated under our gun laws like a battlefield in Iraq or Afghanistan,” Raskin said.
Gladden said she would advocate reducing the maximum capacity for ammunition allowed in detachable magazines for firearms to 10, down from 20 in current Maryland law.
Sen. William C. Ferguson IV (D-Baltimore) said he would push a bill establishing new criteria to qualify for a handgun permit in Maryland.
Under current state law, Marylanders must show “good and substantial reason” to obtain a handgun permit from state police. But that restrictive standard could well change. In March, a federal district judge struck down that language, ruling it unconstitutional. The state is appealing.
Under Ferguson’s proposal, applicants would be required to complete a firearms training course. Certain factors could also disqualify applicants, such as pending charges for a felony or a dishonorable discharge from the military.
Ferguson’s proposal would also prohibit carrying a handgun in churches, bars, schools, libraries, movie theaters and youth centers, among other places.
“This gun violence, this madness must stop,” he said.