Gun restrictions move forward in Maryland Senate

Local,Maryland,Andy Brownfield,Gun Control

ANNAPOLIS -- The Maryland Senate tentatively approved sweeping new gun restrictions Wednesday, ahead of an expected vote Thursday on the package that is a cornerstone of Gov. Martin O'Malley's legislative agenda.

The Senate tentatively approved the legislation 28-19, while making a number of changes, including expanding who is exempt from provisions banning assault weapons and reducing the application fee for a controversial provision requiring a license to purchase a handgun.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's and Calvert counties, told reporters that he expects his chamber to pass the legislation Thursday.

The measure would ban assault-style rifles and pistols in the state, require licensing and fingerprinting for new pistol purchases and cap ammunition magazines at 10 rounds.

Md. keeps AAA rating
Maryland has maintained its coveted AAA bond rating from all three credit ratings agencies, State Treasurer Nancy Kopp announced.
Maryland is one of nine states to be awarded the highest possible AAA rating, which keeps interest rates low.
However, Moody's qualified its rating with a negative credit outlook for the state, as it did in July.
Moody's pointed to Maryland's "above average debt burden and large unfunded pension liabilities relative to the size of its economy" to explain the negative outlook.

The Senate approved an amendment by Sen. James Brochin, D-Baltimore County, to lower the cost of an application for a pistol license. The license also requires four hours of pistol training and education.

A Senate panel reduced the fee from $100 to $50 last week, but Brochin further lowered that to $25, arguing the training alone would already prove costly to Marylanders who wanted to obtain handguns.

"Gun ownership shouldn't be based on a class system," Brochin said. "Your Second Amendment right shouldn't have to be about how much money you have."

The Senate amended the bill to waive honorably discharged members of the military from the training requirement for a pistol license.

It also doubled the gun-free zone around schools from 150 yards to 300 yards, effective during school hours and special events such as sports.

Restrictions on gun ownership for the mentally ill continued to be a sticking point. Under current law, mentally ill Marylanders are forbidden to own a firearm only if they have a history of violent behavior or have been committed to a mental institution -- voluntarily or otherwise -- for at least 30 days. But even with a history of violent behavior, a doctor's note would allow a person with mental illness to buy a weapon.

Under the gun bill, people who have been judged not guilty by reason of insanity, deemed by a court to be dangerous to themselves or others or involuntarily committed to a mental institution would not be allowed to own some firearms.

Some lawmakers argued for taking the mental health provisions out and addressing them later, but the Senate ultimately adopted the restrictions.

"If we haven't drawn precisely the right lines, we've drawn pretty good ones," said Sen. Brian Frosh, D-Montgomery County, chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and the bill's shepherd through the Senate.

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