Maryland lawmakers must now decide if those who have been involuntary committed to a public or private mental health facility should be banned from owning a gun.
By a vote of 7-4, a Senate committee approved a measure to strengthen state laws around mental health and gun access. The proposed legislation also would set a minimum age requirement for gun ownership, ban assault rifles, decrease the maximum capacity of ammunition magazines from 20 to 10, increase school security, and require handgun owners to be fingerprinted.
The bill is promoted by Governor Martin O’Malley, who is pushing an array of gun-law changes. It's supported by gun control advocate Sarah Brady, whose husband, former White House press secretary Jim Brady, was left paralyzed after the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981 by John Hinckley, Jr., the mentally-ill gunman.
On Wednesday, Brady said in an interview, “I think the most important thing is that it needs to be passed in its entirety - and no weakening at all.”
Vincent DeMarco, the president of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence called the proposal "a great life-saving victory for the people of Maryland,” according to WTOP.
However, many of the committee’s senators disagreed about the sections concerning mental health. "This might be the most difficult problem we've had to tackle," said Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery, in the article.
The proposed changes to the bill would be similar to the law that Virginia passed in 2008 in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shooting. And Wallace Loh, president of the University of Maryland, urged state lawmakers to pass the bill.
In an editorial in Thursday’s edition of the independent campus newspaper, The Diamondback, Loh wrote, “I respect the constitutional right of gun ownership. Strengthening regulations will save lives and need not strangle this right.
"As part of our university’s comprehensive approach to safety, I urge the General Assembly to enact the governor’s gun safety legislation.”
Loh's comments come after the murder-suicide of two students early this month outside an off-campus home.
Earlier this month the Senate judicial Proceedings Committee attracted a large crowd of opponents who said the measure would violate citizen’s Second Amendment rights. The legislation will be up for debate before the full Maryland Senate next week.