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Miller: Gun control bill still needs work

ANNAPOLIS — As the full state Senate plans to begin debating Gov. Martin O’Malley’s amended gun control legislation this week, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. says work on the bill is far from complete.

Mike Miller

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (File photo)

At issue is how to deal with access to firearms for people with mental illness. Miller, a Democrat who represents parts of Prince George’s County and Calvert County, is also bothered by a fingerprinting and licensing requirement that would be imposed on future handgun owners.

“I personally don’t care for it. I’ve never been fingerprinted as of yet, and I’m 70 years old,” Miller said Friday. “If I personally want to buy a gun, I’d go to Virginia before I’d go and give my fingerprints to any government agency.”

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee worked late into the night Thursday and made a number of amendments to the bill, including reducing the required hours of training to receive a handgun license, and halving the fee to obtain that license, to $50. License renewal would cost $20 every 10 years. The amended bill also lets the Maryland State Police audit the sales records of gun dealers.

The most discussed issue was how to restrict access to firearms for those with mental illness. The committee chose to tighten restrictions originally suggested by O’Malley, who had proposed only prohibiting access to people who voluntarily spend 30 consecutive days in a mental health facility.

The legislation now would also prohibit anyone involuntarily committed — for any length of time — from buying a gun. Senators said debate on that issue might not be over.

Earlier Thursday, the same Senate panel approved O’Malley’s bill that would repeal the death penalty.

“I think both bills are going to pass, but I think the gun bill will be amended further, particularly with regard to mental health concerns,” Miller said. “It’s an interesting dynamic. The committee worked long into the night. As a chairman, I would not have kept working that long. Fatigue sets in.”

Miller says the gun bill and death penalty repeal bill could pass by the end of this week.

“We’re going to have some time to work on it,” he said.

Sen. Brian E. Frosh, a Montgomery County Democrat who chairs the Judicial Proceedings Committee, said it could take several days for the Senate to sort through a flurry of amendments that are expected to be introduced in the chamber.

He defended the committee’s amendments to O’Malley’s original legislation, and said he was ready to finalize the bill this week.

“The assault weapons provisions, the magazine clip limits, the licensing provisions, the gun dealer provisions, each one of them will save lives,” Frosh said. “Marylanders will be safer with all of this stuff.

“I think we came up with an excellent product. Can it be improved? Yes. I’m not sure what the improvements could be at this point. We’ll see what the will of the body is, but I think we’ve got a very good product and I’m really proud of it.”