Democratic lawmakers in the Maryland House of Delegates defeated Republican efforts to weaken a gun-control measure Tuesday night, moving the bill backed by Gov. Martin O'Malley closer to passage with its major provisions intact.
The House rejected more than a dozen changes sought by Republican lawmakers. One of them would have stripped out a major part of the bill that would require people to submit their fingerprints to get a license to buy a handgun. Supporters say the fingerprinting provision will make people reluctant to buy a gun legally to give to someone who is not allowed to own one. Opponents said it was wrong to fingerprint people for exercising their Second Amendment rights. The proposed change failed on a 51-79 vote.
The House also rejected a proposed change that would have eliminated parole or probation for people convicted of committing a crime with a gun, forcing them to serve their entire sentences.
The House voted the amendment down on a 53-83 vote.
Supporters of the change say there should be some provision addressed at criminals who commit crimes because the bill focused too much on those who follow the law.
“Let's send a message: Get those people off our streets, keep them off our streets, and stop trying to put the burden on the law-abiding citizens,” said Delegate Michael Smigiel, R-Cecil.
Opponents of the change contended that parole and probation are necessary incentives to get inmates to behave while incarcerated and to keep prison costs down. They also said probation is a strong motivation for recently released inmates to not commit other crimes.
“It's very important that there be some form of time hanging over their head,” said Delegate Joseph Vallario, D-Prince George's.
Meanwhile, O'Malley has included $4.6 million in his supplemental budget proposal to implement the bill to create a “Gun Center” to help state police enforce the new provisions of the law.
Late last week, two House panels made some changes to the measure already passed by the Senate more than a month ago. Still, the main parts of the bill were kept. They include a requirement for handgun owners to submit fingerprints to state police to get a license and limiting magazines to 10 bullets. An assault weapons ban also is in the bill.
The House panels added changes. One would require someone to report a gun that is lost or stolen within 72 hours. Like the fingerprinting provision, the reporting requirement is aimed at preventing people from getting guns for people who are not allowed to have them.
The early evening debate brought a crowd of people to observe the proceedings. Residents who oppose the legislation have regularly turned out for rallies, debates and votes throughout the session, which is scheduled to end at midnight Monday.
A vote is expected in the next couple of days. Differences between the House and Senate -- both controlled by strong Democratic majorities -- will need to be worked out to send the measure to O'Malley before the end of the session.
O'Malley, a Democrat, proposed the measure in the aftermath of December's massacre at a Newtown, Conn., school, where a gunman killed 20 children and six adults before committing suicide. The bill would make $25 million available for schools to invest in security measures such as locks, cameras and buzzer entrance systems.