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Gun Control Measure Advances in Maryland

Annapolis — Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s sweeping gun control bill cleared a major hurdle Friday night as two committees sent a ban on assault-style weapons and a new handgun licensing scheme to the House floor.

The central pieces of the governor’s bill, already approved by the Senate, survived despite multiple amendments during a marathon eight-hour joint committee voting session that stretched late into Friday night.

Led by Republicans, gun control opponents tried unsuccessfully to strip fingerprinting provisions and shooting proficiency requirements from the handgun licensing plan. They also failed to exempt handguns from the 10-bullet magazine limit, among other unsuccessful attempts to weaken the bill.

Instead, the panel passed new rules that would create penalties for not reporting a stolen gun and bar gun ownership when people are given probation before judgment in violent crimes.

Proponents called the bill a tougher measure than the version the Senate approved, even though the House version rolled back how some provisions apply to existing gun owners. Current gun owners would not have to register their assault weapons or undergo training if they want to buy a handgun.

A joint session of the House Judiciary and Health and Government Operations committees voted 27-18 to approve the amended bill.

“The changes that they made only made it stronger,” said Vincent DeMarco, head of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence.

The National Rifle Association’s lobbyist in Annapolis saw some victories in the changes, but said, “At the end of the day, they just passed a gun ban.”

Under the new version, gun dealers would be allowed to sell their existing inventory of assault-style rifles after the ban took effect Oct. 1. Marylanders who placed orders for the guns before then could legally own them.

Del. Luiz Simmons, a Montgomery County Democrat, predicted that those moves, along with an existing spike in gun sales, would leave Maryland “armed to the teeth” before the ban could take effect. “We’re going to flood the state with assault weapons and then declare victory,” Simmons said.