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New laws: Gun restrictions in Maryland, tax hikes in D.C.

New gun restrictions taking effect in Maryland include a ban on "bump stocks" and other rapid-fire accessories. (Allen G. Breed/AP)

Maryland will add three laws to its already sweeping gun-control regulations on Monday, while shoppers in the District will see their sales and cigarette taxes go up.

The provisions are among hundreds of recently passed laws taking effect in the region on Oct. 1.

In Maryland, the gun laws — passed in the wake of two mass shootings at high schools this year and the massacre at a Las Vegas concert last year — are designed to limit access to firearms and certain accessories. They also might have cost Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) his high ranking with the National Rifle Association.

The state’s “red flag” law allows concerned family members and law enforcement to ask a judge to temporarily confiscate firearms from gun owners who pose a risk to themselves or others. In February, before 17 people died in the Parkland High School shooting in Florida, five states had such laws. Now, Maryland is among 13 that do, according to Everytown for Gun Safety.

“The public has not only a responsibility but now has a very effective tool in actively preventing future gun violence — either suicide or mass shootings,” said Del. Geraldine Valentino-Smith (D-Prince George’s County), who sponsored the red flag law.

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Maryland is also banning the sale and possession of bump stocks and other rapid-fire accessories that can make a semiautomatic rifle fire almost as fast as a machine gun. The Las Vegas shooter used a bump stock as he fired on concertgoers, killing 58 people and injuring more than 500.

In addition, the state now requires gun owners convicted of domestic violence to surrender their firearms. Though domestic violence convictions have long disqualified Maryland residents from owning guns, until Monday, there was no mechanism to ensure such convicts got rid of their guns.

The gun laws were backed by most Maryland Democrats and some Republicans, including Hogan, who held a news conference to urge their passage in the Democratic-majority General Assembly.

Last week, the National Rifle Association dropped Hogan’s rating from the A-minus he received in 2014 to a C.

NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker would not discuss details of how Hogan’s rating was calculated but said the ratings take into account the entirety of a candidate’s record since the previous election cycle.

The organization endorsed Hogan in 2014 but has not endorsed his bid for reelection; Hogan recently told students from Great Mills High School, where a 16-year-old girl was fatally shot this year, that he would not accept an NRA endorsement if one was offered.

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In the District, the general sales tax increases to 6 percent Monday from the current 5.75 percent — part of a plan to pay for the District’s $179 million share of an agreement with Maryland and Virginia to give the Metro transit system dedicated funding. It will be the first time the bus and rail system has a reliable revenue stream since it opened in 1976.

The city’s estate tax exemption will change to $5.6 million. The District’s exemption level was previously pegged to the federal level, which rose to about $11 million under the Republican tax bill approved by Congress last year.

The tax on cigarettes will go up by $2, to $4.94, a 68 percent jump. The legal age for purchase of tobacco is also increasing, from 18 to 21, D.C. Council Secretary Nyasha Smith said.

Maryland is trying to rein in the widespread use of e-cigarettes by teenagers by creating new penalties for retailers that sell to them, said Del. Sandy Rosenberg, a Baltimore Democrat who pushed for the law. Starting Monday, retailers face the same penalties for selling e-cigarettes and vaping devices to minors as they would face for selling traditional tobacco products.

“The tobacco industry is looking for new customers . . . so we need to be vigilant in terms of shutting off that ave

nue and making it less likely that minors will get hooked and addicted,” Rosenberg said.

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In May, after Maryland passed its law, the Food and Drug Administration announced a crackdown on sales of e-cigarettes and the popular Juul vaping products to minors. The cartridges come in fruit flavors and can be disguised in a device that looks like a USB drive, making teen use of them difficult for adults to detect.

Also on Monday, Maryland joins a handful of states that prohibit licensed counselors from trying to change the sexual orientation of LGBTQ people. The ban on “conversion therapy” passed after a delegate came out as bisexual on the floor of the House of Delegates in an emotional speech that also criticized her father, a state senator who defended the practice as therapeutic.

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Other laws taking effect in Maryland will:

●expand the medical marijuana industry in an effort to include more black-owned firms, which were largely shut out of the initial growing and processing market.

●grant state employees the most generous parental leave benefit in the region, giving parents of newborns and newly adopted children as much as 18 weeks off with pay.

●prohibit drug distributors from placing a “gag rule” on pharmacists, which prevents them from telling customers the cheapest way to obtain a drug.

●broaden the prosecution of hate crimes to include actions that target a group in general, rather than a specific individual. The law comes after a surge of hate-based incidents at Maryland schools, including many in Montgomery County.

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