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Gansler says Md. gun-control bill constitutional

Maryland’s comprehensive gun-control measure is constitutional, Attorney General Doug Gansler wrote in a 25-page legal review made public on Wednesday.

The letter to Gov. Martin O’Malley, who proposed the plan in January and is scheduled to sign it at a May 16 bill ceremony, outlines legal opinions about some of the main parts of the measure that was approved by the Maryland General Assembly last month. Gansler noted that the measure was “crafted carefully to balance the rights of legitimate gun owners with the need for increased public and law enforcement safety from gun violence.”

“We are confident that the resulting legislation is constitutional and legally defensible,” Gansler wrote in the April 30 letter to the Democratic governor.

In one of the measure’s most contentious provisions, people who buy a handgun will be required to submit fingerprints to state police. Gansler noted that fingerprint requirements as part of a firearms registration process is a longstanding feature of state laws in New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Hawaii and the District of Columbia.

The measure bans 45 types of assault weapons applying to long guns, although people who own them now will be allowed to keep them. Gansler noted that it expands the longstanding assault pistol ban, which has not been challenged.

The legislation limits gun magazines to 10 bullets. Gansler expressed confidence that a court would find there is “a substantial relationship between the prohibition of high-capacity detachable magazines and the state’s objectives of controlling crime and protecting law enforcement officers.”

The bill addresses firearms access for people who are mentally ill. Those who have been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility won’t be allowed to have a gun.

In addition, Maryland State Police will be able to suspend the licenses of gun dealers who fail to comply with new recordkeeping obligations. The provision will allow the state police to supplement enforcement efforts of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“We do not anticipate any challenge to the state’s power to enact this legislation,” Gansler wrote.

Opponents of the measure had considered trying to petition the measure to the ballot for voters to decide in November 2014. However, a lawmaker who has led similar petition drives in recent years announced last month that opponents should seek to overturn the measure in court instead.