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O’Malley to push bills on weapons, school safety

ANNAPOLIS —Gov. Martin O’Malley said Tuesday he expects his administration to introduce legislation aimed at preventing catastrophic mass shootings like the one last week at a Connecticut elementary school.
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O’Malley said he believes “we’ve all been changed” by Friday’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, and that the massacre may act as a catalyst for lawmakers to tighten the state’s gun laws.

“What I sense is there is a greater willingness among those who in the past felt that gun control measures were not as effective as some other things we could be doing. I think there’s been a change of heart and a greater open-mindedness in the wake of the murder of the innocent in Connecticut for people to take a look at, especially assault weapons,” O’Malley said during a year-end roundtable discussion with reporters. “You look at some of these guns and it’s just hard for anyone to conclude that these guns should be in the hands of anyone who isn’t a soldier on a battlefield or a law enforcement officer sent in for a tactical situation.”

O’Malley said that while his administration hadn’t settled yet on specific legislation, he was focused on laws concerning assault rifles, firearms access for the mentally ill and school safety.

“I think you can count on there being several bills, and the likelihood is that there will be a bill from this administration — the details of which we are still working on. But I think you’ll see several bills. You’ll probably see several bills on mental health. You’ll probably see several bills on school safety.”

The gunman, Adam Lanza, killed his mother at home before driving to the school and fatally shooting 20 children and six adults. Investigators say he turned the gun on himself as first responders closed in. Authorities haven’t determined a motive, but they say Lanza is believed to have used a Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle, a civilian version of the military’s M-16.

Meanwhile, Sen. Brian Frosh said he and other lawmakers plan to announce on Wednesday a package of gun control legislation, including a bill to ban assault weapons. He said legislators who in the past had resisted gun control efforts have told him that they’d be willing to revisit the issue now, in light of the Connecticut shooting.

“It’s a public health issue. I think people are finally starting to get it. I don’t know how many of these mass killings it takes. I think people understand that having these kinds of weapons all over the place, all the time, in the hands of dangerous people is a health risk and is a threat to every single member of society — including small schoolchildren.”

O’Malley said he’d sign a bill that banned assault weapons if it reached his desk, though he agreed that such an effort would be more effective at a national level. He said he wouldn’t entertain a discussion over whether school officials should be permitted to carry firearms on campus, an idea floated by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell in an interview with WTOP on Tuesday.

O’Malley used Tuesday’s discussion to review what he said were some of the state’s accomplishments or achievements, including the creation of more than 35,500 private sector jobs in the last 12 months and a nearly 25 percent reduction in violent crime since 2006.

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