Hundreds of gun-rights advocates last week packed Lawyers Mall to remind Annapolis lawmakers that opposition to gun control remains strong.
“We are back, and we will keep coming back,” said Greg Nolte, second vice president of the Maryland State Rifle and Pistol Association. “We are back and will keep coming back until Senate Bill 281 is repealed or overturned.”
Maryland passed SB 281, also known as the Firearms Safety Act, last legislative session.
In effect since October, the new law requires background checks, fingerprinting and a licensing fee for everyone purchasing regulated firearms — a category that includes handguns but not shotguns or hunting rifles. The law also bans about 40 semi-automatic rifles deemed to be “assault weapons” and magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. It also restricts gun ownership by certain people with a history of mental illness.
A bill proposed by Del. Michael D. Smigiel Sr. (R-Eastern Shore) would repeal the Firearms Safety Act.
Sen. Jamie B. Raskin said the new gun control law already might be saving lives.
“If anything, the murders at the Columbia mall have solidified peoples’ resolve to maintain reasonable gun safety legislation,” said Raskin (D-Montgomery). “If the Columbia mall shooter had been able to buy an assault weapon rather than a shotgun, he might have killed three dozen people rather than three. It’s an obscenity he was able to kill three people.”
The legislature’s goal in passing the gun control measure was to allow law-abiding and sane citizens to exercise their Second Amendment rights while keeping handguns from those who do not follow the law, Raskin said. Yet many view the new law quite differently.
Del. Michael A. McDermott considered it the work of a tyrannical government.
“The last time a tyrant took away guns from American citizens, it did not go well for him,” said McDermott (R-Eastern Shore). “It is not going well for this governor.”
The Feb. 4 rally was as much a call for Second Amendment candidates to challenge incumbents in 2014 as it was a reminder to the state of how controversial the bill remains.
Volunteers walked among the crowd registering voters, and speakers encouraged “patriots” to use the ballot box to oust lawmakers who supported gun control.
But changing the law so soon could be unlikely, Sen. Brian E. Frosh said in December. Frosh chairs the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. He is running this year for the Democratic nomination for attorney general.
Despite wanting to “tighten up” the policy, Frosh (D-Montgomery) said the legislature will not have another swing at it for quite some time.
Gubernatorial hopeful Del. Heather R. Mizeur has proposed to toughen the law if elected the state’s next governor.
As part of her plan for public safety, Mizeur (D-Montgomery) proposes universal background checks, gun removal at the scene of domestic violence crimes and a grant program to buy back guns.
Republicans, however, are working to lessen restrictions on guns this legislative session.
Smigiel, in addition to fully repealing the new law, is seeking to repeal the requirement that a person present a good and substantial reason to carry, wear or transport a handgun before being issued a handgun permit.
In the Senate, Sen. Nancy Jacobs has a bill that would clarify self-defense as a good and substantial reason to wear, carry, or transport a handgun.
Smigiel has also proposed to allow those with concealed-carry permits in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia to carry their weapons in Maryland.
Jacobs (R-Cecil, Harford) has a bill that would, before Oct. 1, 2016, allow licensed firearms dealers to conditionally sell, rent or transfer a firearm to a customer who applied for a gun but did not received a response from Maryland State Police within seven days.
She also has introduced a bill that would allow designated firearms collectors to have up to four assault weapons and a bill that would prevent Maryland State Police from sharing information collected under the firearms portion of the law, except what is necessary to participate in the National Instant Criminal Background Check system.