Legislation to ban assault weapons like the Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle used in the Newtown school massacre will be revived in
The ban is among several gun control proposals that have languished in the Assembly but will take on greater priority as Marylanders grapple with the aftermath of the nation's second-deadliest
"This is an absolute tipping point," said Sen.
Other proposals under discussion include giving state police greater access to
Currently, a gun owner must show a "good and substantial reason" for carrying a concealed firearm to get a permit to do so in Maryland. About 12,700 of the permits have been issued.
The law is being challenged, and similar ones have been struck down in other parts of the country.
A number of Maryland elected officials called for enhanced gun control Monday, including U.S. Sen.
Some state lawmakers also want to give the state police more authority to regulate gun stores.
Other gun control ideas are likely to surface in coming days. Several lawmakers contacted Monday said they spent the weekend brainstorming with colleagues or discussing with constituents ways to prevent mass shootings.
Sen. Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat, said he briefly considered hosting a rally to show support for Newtown victims but instead plans to host a town hall meeting on gun control.
Any proposals are sure to encounter resistance in Maryland, which has not passed any major gun control legislation in more than a decade. "It will be a brouhaha," predicted Del. Kathleen Dumais, a Montgomery County Democrat who is vice chair of the
Maryland has some of the most restrictive gun control laws in the country, supporters acknowledged. Gun buyers must be 21 or over and wait seven days before making a purchase while the state police perform a criminal background check. Fourteen factors prohibit gun ownership — including a history of violence or drug or
Marylanders are allowed to own or purchase 45 different types of semi-automatic weapons — guns where another bullet is automatically loaded into a chamber after being fired. The list incudes the Bushmaster rifle used in the
"There is no reason anyone needs to have a Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle," said Raskin, who plans to introduce the ban when the annual 90-day legislative session opens Jan. 9. "That is just a killing machine. We can get rid of military-style assault weapons in civil society without infringing on anyone's Second Amendment rights."
Similar legislation was introduced as recently as 2010 but died in the state Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. This time, the proposal faces better odds, said Judicial Proceedings Committee Chairman Brian Frosh, a Montgomery County Democrat. He pointed out that there have been a number of mass shootings since then, and that the composition of the committee has changed. Frosh plans a news conference this week unveiling a package of gun control legislation including the assault weapons ban.
Leading the opposition in the coming session will be Del. Michael D. Smigiel, an Eastern Shore Republican whose Facebook page includes a photograph of him holding an assault rifle.
"People will try to politicize this and pass anti-Second Amendment legislation that will further create problems for the innocent and the law abiding," Smigiel said Monday, saying the Connecticut rampage should instead lead lawmakers to provide more access to mental health care.
State police access to mental health records is expected to be an issue in Annapolis. Though the department is charged with doing background checks, it does not have access to many mental health records, making it difficult to assess the mental illness history of an applicant, said Greg Shipley, a state police spokesman.
Under current law, the
The General Assembly earlier this year established a task force to study the issue of giving the police more access to the records. It is expected to make recommendations soon.
"If we could address, or begin to address, the issue of access to weapons by individuals with mental health issues, I would consider that an accomplishment," said Del. Luiz Simmons, a Montgomery County Democrat who proposed the task force.