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At UB law center opening, Biden urges Congress to support background checks

Vice President Joe Biden praised Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley and the Maryland General Assembly on Tuesday for passing gun control legislation and urged Congress to pass a bipartisan plan for expanding background checks to more gun buyers.

Vice President Joe Biden speaks at Tuesday's celebration to mark the opening of the University of Baltimore Law school's $114 million John and Frances Angelos Law Center. (Josh Cooper/The Daily Record)

“We are in the middle of a gun debate right now in the U.S. Congress,” Biden said during an event to celebrate the opening of a new law school building at the University of Baltimore.

“Soon we will face an important test in the United States Senate, where Senators and I hope they have the courage of Maryland State Senators, will stand up to vote on an amendment that was offered in a bipartisan way to expand background checks.”

The U.S. Senate was expected to vote Wednesday on a plan to expand background checks to cover gun shows and online sales. The current background check system applies only to transactions with licensed gun dealers.

The General Assembly earlier this month passed a bill that would require people who buy a handgun to submit fingerprints to state police, ban 45 types of assault weapons, and limit gun magazines to 10 bullets.

O’Malley proposed the legislation in the aftermath of December’s massacre at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school. The measure now awaits his signature.

“It’s time for the U.S. Congress to stand up like your legislators did,” Biden said. “Your governor did the right thing.”

Biden began his remarks by acknowledging the fatal bombings Monday in Boston, offering his condolences and vowing that authorities would find those responsible.

“We will respond to these cowardly acts. We’ll find the perpetrators, and we will bring them to justice,” Biden said. “That I guarantee you.”

The vice president also recounted the Newtown tragedy that claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults to underscore the need for stronger gun control laws. He said the tragedy was a clarifying moment for the entire country on gun control issues.

The vice president was invited to the event by Baltimore Orioles owner and University of Baltimore graduate Peter Angelos, who contributed $15 million of the $22 million in private funding for the building. The new building is named for the owner’s late parents John and Frances Angelos.

Several Maryland lawmakers were on hand to celebrate the school’s opening, including Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, D-Prince George’s County, and Maryland House of Delegates Speaker Pro Tem Adrienne A. Jones. Both lauded Angelos and the public-private partnerships that brought the school into fruition.

The state contributed $92 million to the $114 million, 190,000-square-foot building. It was designed by architect Stefan Behnisch in partnership with a Baltimore-based firm, Ayers Saint Gross.

“It’s a modern testament to the hunger and thirst for justice that Marylanders, through the generations, have always had,” O’Malley said.

The 12-story law center includes 15 classrooms, 29 large- and small-group study spaces, a 32,000-square-foot library and a 300-seat moot courtroom and event space. The building also houses all the school’s clinical services and law-related centers.

“The UB School of Law is the sixth largest public law school in the country,” said Peter Toran, vice president of planning and external affairs for the school. “We had outgrown our existing facility. Now we have room for all of our classes and our entire faculty.”