Preliminary vote on Maryland gun bill expected Thursday -- Gazette.Net


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A Senate panel is expected to vote Thursday on the sweeping gun-control measures proposed by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), kicking off what’s likely to be an intense effort to change the bill.

Gun-rights supporters who sit on the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee will propose numerous changes — from eliminating licensing provisions to changing the definition of an assault weapon — said Sen. Nancy Jacobs (R-Dist. 34) of Abingdon.

O’Malley’s proposed ban on assault weapons covers a number of specific semiautomatic pistols and rifles, as well as “copycat” weapons with certain features similar to the other banned guns, such as a grenade launchers, telescoping stocks or stocks with thumbholes.

But some of those features can be found on rifles used for hunting and target shooting and don’t make the weapons more powerful, Jacobs said. Telescoping stocks, which adjust the length of the gun to fit properly against the user’s shoulder, are needed for some shooters, such as small-framed women, to use rifles, Jacobs said.

The same is true of thumbhole stocks, which enable the shooter to get a better grip on the gun, take pressure off the shoulder and improve stability, all particularly important for women, Jacobs said.

She and some of her colleagues also will try to strike O’Malley’s handgun-licensing proposal, which requires eight hours of instruction — something that people who have been shooting safely for years shouldn’t have to take, Jacobs said.

However, supporters and opponents of the governor’s plan may be able to find some common ground on licensing, Jacobs acknowledged.

The committee is likely to sign off on the proposal, which will then face many additional amendments when it is debated by the whole Senate, said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Dist 27) of Chesapeake Beach.

Miller has said he expects the assault weapons ban to pass his chamber, but that the licensing provisions, particularly a fingerprinting requirement, will be a tougher sell.

Miller told reporters Friday that if some adjustments weren’t made to the ban’s criteria, Maryland ran the risk of losing manufacturers such as Beretta U.S.A. in Accokeek, which employs about 400 people in Maryland, to states will less-restrictive laws such as Virginia.

O’Malley’s bill also has drawn criticism from Del. Kevin Kelly (D-Dist. 1B) of Cumberland, a gun-rights supporter. In an email this weekend to the governor's office and the state police, Kelly expressed concern that the proposed new rules might not allow him to leave some of the guns he owns to his children in his will.

dleaderman@gazette.net