Maryland House Takes Up Gun Control Bill

The Maryland House of Delegates rejected a proposed change to a gun-control bill that would have taken away parole or probation for people convicted of committing a crime with a gun, the Associated Press reported.

The House voted the amendment down Tuesday, with 83 delegates voting against it and 53 supporting it.

Supporters of the change say there should be some provision addressed at criminals who commit crimes in a bill they criticize for focusing on the law-abiding. Opponents of the change contended parole and probation are necessary incentives to get inmates to behave while incarcerated and to keep prison costs down.

“This gun bill that we have before the legislature has had more public hearings, we've listened to more people, we have had more work done on it than almost any other bill of its kind,” Majority Leader Kumar Barve said.

Gun rights advocates are trying to defeat Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley's gun control bill with dozens of amendments that the House is expected to consider into Tuesday evening.

“So a lot of people are volunteering their time and effort to come down here and make sure that what the governor is trying to do is as unsuccessful as possible,” said Delegate Michael Smigiel Sr., R-Eastern Shore.

Gun rights advocates held a strategy session to consider ways to attack the bill, the governor and gun control supporters.

"When Martin O'Malley runs for president in 2016, he can say he did something,” Smigiel said. “This does nothing to make the public safer, and in fact it makes the public less safe."

Opponents also say the bill won’t accomplish what it promises.

"We believe this is an unnecessary incursion into our second amendment rights in the state, and it’s not going to stop the type of violence that we saw tragically occur in Newtown, Conn.," Minority Leader Anthony O’Donnell said.

O’Malley's bill would ban the sale of assault-style weapons, but changes in the wording may exempt some new models that are similar looking.

The bill limits ammunition magazines to 10 bullets. New handgun buyers would have to take training courses and get licensed and fingerprinted.

"You know they'll probably try and do things to strike the assault weapons ban, to exclude different people from the handgun license, strike fingerprinting process,” said Delegate Kathleen Dumais, D-Montgomery County. “They’ll do a lot to try to weaken the bill, but it’s very important and I think we'll stay strong."

If the gun control bill passes in the Maryland General Assembly, opponents promise to continue the fight.

"This isn't over,” O’Donnell said. “This bill will see arguments in other venues, I'm sure, going forward.”

Gun rights advocates say they are considering a court challenge if Maryland passes a new gun control law. The law could also go to voters in a referendum in 2014.

Democrats in the House want to deliver a gun control bill as strong as the one already passed by the Maryland Senate.

“I think what will emerge is a permit-to-purchase process for a handgun and an assault weapons ban, as well as a stronger process for determining if you have a mental health issue, whether or not you should be someone that can have a gun," Dumais said.

The bill in the House says if someone has been committed to a mental hospital for 30 days or more, that person should not be allowed to own a gun.

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