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Foes of gun bill try start process for petition

ANNAPOLIS — Opponents of a Maryland gun-control measure took steps on Wednesday to prepare a petition drive with hopes of giving voters a chance to reject the bill next year on the ballot.

Del. Neil Parrott, R-Washington, brought language for a petition to the Maryland State Board of Elections to seek an advance decision on whether the language is legally sufficient. Parrott also brought language for a potential petition drive against a bill that would repeal capital punishment and another measure that makes union fees a mandatory subject of bargaining between school boards and local associations for all teachers.

Parrott said in an interview at the board’s office in Annapolis that opponents are not yet committed to moving forward with the petition drives. He also said more measures that passed the General Assembly could be added for consideration. Some other measures that are being weighed for petition drives include bills to allow same-day voter registration and to implement the federal health care law.

“It could be any mix, but we are trying to start the process,” Parrott said.

The delegate also said an announcement was scheduled next Wednesday about what, if any, legislation opponents would seek to petition for a referendum.

Time is significant, because opponents would need to get one-third of the 55,736 signatures needed to petition a bill to referendum by midnight May 31 to qualify to move forward.

The gun-control bill brought large crowds of opponents to Annapolis on a variety of occasions; supporters of the measure cited polls indicating a majority of Marylanders favored the changes.

The bill, which was proposed by Gov. Martin O’Malley, makes Maryland’s already-strong gun laws even tighter. For example, handgun purchasers will need to submit fingerprints to get a license. There will be a limit on magazines to 10 bullets, and 45 assault weapons will be banned. People involuntarily committed to a mental health facility will be prohibited from owning a gun.

If opponents succeed in getting the signatures, the measures would be suspended from taking effect until voters decide them on Election Day in 2014.

Last year was the first time in two decades that measures passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor were successfully petitioned to the ballot. The petition drivers were added by an online website organized by Parrott called The website made it easier to get signatures in to be verified by the Maryland State Board of Elections.

Still, voters upheld three laws that were petitioned to the ballot, including legalizing same-sex marriage, in-state tuition for some students who are living in the U.S. illegally and the state’s congressional redistricting map.