ANNAPOLIS -- Gov. Martin O'Malley pushed his plan for tough gun control measures to a state Senate panel on Wednesday, while hundreds of Marylanders both for and against the bill lined up outside the Senate office building waiting for their chance to testify.
"We choose to take on gun violence this session because every life is precious, every life is needed, and there is no tragedy worse than the violent taking of a child's life," O'Malley said.
O'Malley's legislation would require some of the strictest handgun licensing requirements in the country. Marylanders would need to undergo eight hours of training, pay $400 in fees, submit their fingerprints and pass background checks to obtain a license. The license would allow them to purchase, rent or receive a handgun.
The legislation also would ban semi-automatic firearms that contain one of any number of modifications -- such as a telescopic stock or flash suppressor -- that would qualify it as an assault weapon. It also would limit ammunition magazines to 10 rounds.
The bill would require anyone bringing firearms into Maryland from out of state to register them within 30 days and pay a fee.
O'Malley said states with similar laws have seen gun-related crime and homicides fall.
Stacy Mayer, O'Malley's chief legislative officer, said the licensing provision would deter so-called straw purchasers -- people who legally purchase firearms for those who are forbidden from doing so. She said the cost and training requirements might make them think twice.
However, some testified that the bill would make it hard or impossible for some Marylanders to own a handgun.
Ricardo Royal, a firearms safety instructor from Edgewater, Md., said the cost of a handgun license would prevent low-income Marylanders from getting one.
"Only the people who are financially capable are going to go through it," he said.
The legislation also raised concerns with the state's gun industry.
The bill's ban on assault weapons includes a prohibition on transporting guns. Jeff Reh, vice general manager for Beretta USA, said that would make it impossible for the three Beretta companies in Maryland to ship the assault weapons it makes to other states where they're legal.
"If that turns out to be the interpretation, we'd have to move the companies," said Reh, who added that Beretta had been courted by other states.
The legislation even prompted at least one Marylander to threaten to leave the state.
"My wife and I are moving out of state. It's because of this law. This is the last straw," said Don Curtis, of La Plata, one of more than 400 people who signed up to testify. "We've gotten to the point here that this is just too much.
"Here it's like microanalysis of anything gun, and I'm just not going to tolerate it."