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Senate panel passes O’Malley gun bill 7-4

ANNAPOLIS — The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on Thursday night approved legislation to require the training and licensing of handgun owners and the banning of semi-automatic assault weapons.

With its 7-4 vote, the committee sent to the Senate floor Gov. Martin O’Malley’s signature gun-control legislation, which led about 1,000 protesters to gather outside the State House earlier this month.

The committee’s voting session on the legislation lasted four-and-a-half hours, ending around midnight as the panel’s Democratic majority beat back largely Republican efforts to remove the licensing requirement and the assault weapons ban from the legislation, Senate Bill 281.

Sen. Nancy Jacobs, R-Harford and Cecil and a gun owner, said a person should not have to be licensed to exercise his or her constitutional Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. She was joined in her opposition by fellow Republicans Christopher B. Shank, of Washington County, and Joseph M. Getty, of Baltimore and Carroll counties, as well as Norman R. Stone Jr., D-Baltimore County.

Sen. James Brochin, D-Baltimore County, spoke passionately of the Second Amendment, arguing that the bill should not contain a $50 licensing fee.

“I don’t want to make it onerous for people to exercise their Second Amendment rights,” Brochin said. “You’re fee-ing them to death.”

Brochin, however, ultimately voted for the bill. He was joined by Sens. Brian E. Frosh, D-Montgomery, the committee chair; Lisa A. Gladden, D-Baltimore City, the vice chair; Jamin B. “Jamie” Raskin, D-Montgomery; Jennie Forehand, D-Montgomery; Bobby A. Zirkin, D-Batimore County; and C. Anthony Muse, D-Prince George’s.

The measure, which would go into effect Oct. 1, would require that purchasers of handguns first complete a Maryland State Police-approved firearms safety training course within a year of applying for the license. Law enforcement officers and members of the U.S. military would be exempt from having to take the training course.

In addition, owners of semi-automatic assault weapons would have until Oct. 31 to register their firearms to be in lawful possession of them. The measure would also reduce from 20 to 10 rounds the detachable magazine capacity permitted to be bought and sold in Maryland.

The proposed 2013 Firearm Safety Act is also pending before the House Judiciary Committee, as House Bill 294.