Grassroots referendum effort challenges Maryland gun bill

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Local,Maryland,Andy Brownfield,Gun Control

A Montgomery County activist is pushing to put the fate of Gov. Martin O'Malley's sweeping new gun restrictions before Maryland voters on the 2014 ballot.

After MDPetitions.com -- the group responsible for getting three ultimately failed ballot measures before voters in 2012 -- announced last month that it would not challenge the gun bill on the ballot in favor of joining an expected National Rifle Association lawsuit, Sue Payne decided she would take up the mantle.

"I felt that no lobbying group should get to dictate what does or doesn't get to go to the voters," said Payne.

"I thought it was unbelievably arrogant of the administration of Maryland to think they could reach into our constitutional rights the way they did, and I was equally disappointed by the other side that wanted to hold the petition process hostage."

The measure, which O'Malley is expected to sign into law next week, would ban 45 assault-style rifles, require fingerprinting and permitting for new handgun purchases, limit ammunition magazines to 10 rounds and prohibit gun ownership by the mentally ill.

Washington County Republican Del. Neil Parrott, who heads MDPetitions.com, said it's more appropriate to have the court decide what's already a constitutional right than voters.

"The big thing is, this is a constitutional right, given us through God to be able to defend ourselves, and recognized in the U.S. Constitution," he said.

If Payne can collect the necessary 55,736 valid signatures by the end of June -- more than 18,000 of which must be turned in by May 31, the gun bill and any lawsuits challenging it would be put on hold until after the election.

The NRA did not return calls.

Payne said she is running the petition effort -- from FreeStatePetitions.com -- without the financial support of any state or national gun groups. That doesn't daunt her -- she said she expects Marylanders, who showed up in the thousands for public hearings on the bill, to strike it down if it makes it to the ballot.

"Coincidentally, the same folks who voted for this gun bill ... are all up for re-election," she said. "I believe this will light up the electorate and not only vote on this issue, but they'll vote these guys out of office too."

abrownfield@washingtonexaminer.com

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