Petition drive to overturn Maryland gun-control law fails, official says

A petition drive that sought to derail Maryland’s new gun-control law has failed, a state official said Saturday.

Opponents of the law did not turn in an initial batch of signatures by the deadline at midnight on Friday, meaning the law championed by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) will stand, said Steve Ackerman, a spokesman for the Maryland Secretary of State’s Office.

Ackerman also confirmed that his office had not received any petitions from a separate group seeking to halt Maryland’s law repealing the death penalty, another O’Malley initiative.

In both cases, opponents were seeking enough signatures to force statewide votes on the new laws in November 2014.

To comply with a constitutional requirement, petition-gatherers had to present the first third of a required 55,736 signatures to the state on Friday. If that threshold were crossed, the remainder would be due a month later.

Leaders of Free State Petitions, the group coordinating the gun-control petition, said little about their progress on Friday.

MDPetitions.com, the group spearheading the petition drive on the death penalty repeal, acknowledged at a news conference Friday that they had fallen short of the 18,579 signatures required for the drive to continue.

The new gun-control law signed by O’Malley bans assault weapons and limits magazines to no more than 10 bullets. Residents buying a gun are required to give fingerprints and obtain a photo ID similar to a driver’s license. They also have to spend eight hours in a gun-safety training class.

Some pro-gun groups decided not to participate in the petition drive, arguing that legal action is a better course for overturning the law.

MDPetitions.com, which helped put three measures on the ballot last year, including one on same-sex marriage, also sat out the gun-control fight.

Vincent DeMarco, president of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, which lobbied for passage of O’Malley’s bill, said he was happy to avoid a long referendum fight.

“We are thrilled that the new law will take effect as planned, and we look forward to making it a model for the nation on how to prevent gun violence,” DeMarco said.

John Wagner is a political reporter covering the race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

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