Democratic lawmakers in Maryland on Wednesday proposed a package of gun bills designed to keep firearms off college campuses and out of the hands of felons, domestic abusers and suspected terrorists.
The legislation — along with two gun-control bills proposed Tuesday by Senate Majority Whip Jamie Raskin — could set up a new standoff with Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who was endorsed by the National Rifle Association during his 2014 campaign.
Hogan pledged as a candidate not to try to roll back Maryland’s existing gun laws, which are among the most strict in the nation. But gun-rights advocates said Hogan told them that he would look for ways to expand access to firearms.
Hogan has made no such proposals since taking office a year ago; his spokesman said he had no immediate comment on the bills unveiled this week.
One bill announced Wednesday would ban firearm possession on the campuses of public colleges and universities, with exemptions for police officers and security personnel. The schools now set their own gun policies, but they must comply with state law. Some ban firearms outright, while others allow them with permission from campus police. Rural Frostburg State University, for example, permits firearms but requires them to be registered and stored with university police.
Another proposal would prevent the Maryland State Police from issuing permits to people on the FBI’s terrorist watch list.
A third bill would require courts to inform domestic abusers and felons, within 48 hours of a conviction, that they must turn over their firearms and verify within three days that they have complied.
Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) offered support for the bills during a news conference, saying that the proposals would make communities safer and are constitutional.
“Guns don’t need to be on college campuses,” Frosh said. “They don’t need to be in the hands of domestic abusers.”
Raskin’s legislation would mandate background checks for purchases of rifles and shotguns and provide new tools to help alert local law enforcement when individuals who are barred from buying firearms try to purchase them. Existing law requires background checks only for handguns.
NRA spokeswoman Amy Hunter said Democrats are “trying to push a political agenda by proposing bills that are redundant, impede law-abiding citizens from exercising their constitutional rights and would do nothing to improve public safety.”
If the bills pass, Hogan will have the option to sign them, veto them or allow them to become law without his signature.
In 2013, then-Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) signed legislation that banned the sale of nearly all semiautomatic rifles and ammunition magazines holding more than 10 bullets; required new gun buyers to submit digital fingerprints to state police; limited firearm purchases for the mentally ill; and required individuals who want to buy any gun other than a hunting rifle or shotgun to obtain a license, a process that includes training and background checks.
A Washington Post poll that year found widespread approval of tougher gun statutes.
On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader J.B. Jennings (R-Baltimore County) signaled his reluctance to expand the state’s gun laws, particularly in light of recent legal challenges to the 2013 statute.
“Maryland has the most restrictive gun laws in the union,” Jennings said. “I believe anybody that has not violated any laws and has been a good citizen should have a right to own a firearm and protect themselves and their family.”
Last week, a federal appeals court cast doubt on the legality of Maryland’s assault-weapons ban, sending the legislation back to a lower court for review but allowing the prohibition to continue.