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Md. Democratic leaders put support behind ‘common sense’ gun bills

ANNAPOLIS — Democratic legislative leaders put their support behind a trio of proposed gun laws they called “common sense” and said should have bipartisan support.

The bills, backed by House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. attempt to address hot button gun issues such as possession on college campuses and mandating judges inform those convicted of domestic violence of the legal deadlines for surrendering their weapons.

Busch called the package “common sense gun legislation that I believe is going to protect Maryland families and children, particularly those on college campuses.”

Included in the three-bill package is a proposal to prohibit the possession of guns on all colleges in Maryland. Currently, each college or university system decides the issue on a campus-by-campus basis.

Miller said guns shouldn’t be allowed on campus regardless of the reason, including self-defense. When asked about women who were raped who want to carry a gun for protection, Miller referred to college as a “gun-free sanctuary.”

“Our college campuses are going to be a gun-free sanctuary,” he said. “They [guns] don’t belong on our college campuses for anybody.”

The bill adds colleges and universities to a current law that prohibits students from carrying guns, knives or other dangerous weapons on public school property.

Matt Clark, a spokesman for Gov. Larry Hogan, expressed surprise regarding the firearm legislation package.

Hogan and Miller met Tuesday following the Senate override of the last of the bills vetoed last year by the governor.

“The Senate president never mentioned the bills and the governor is concerned that lawmakers are attempting to legislate by press release,” Clark said, repeating a criticism that some Democrats, including Miller, have leveled at Hogan in the last few weeks.

Due process concerns

Dan Blasberg, president of Maryland Shall Issue, an organization that supports expanded carry laws in Maryland, said the simple change could cause problems for students on campuses who use knives as part of their course study.

Legislators also want to prohibit anyone on the federal terror watch list from being able to legally own a gun in Maryland. Details of that bill were not immediately available, but Blasberg and others raised concerns about due process.

“There’s no due process to get on the list and no due process to get off the list,” Blasberg said.

It is not clear how the proposal would prohibit gun ownership. Under current federal law, being on the watch list in and of itself does not disqualify someone from owning a gun. Blasberg said it is unlikely the federal government would share information from a sensitive terror watch list with state governments.

Legislators also want to require judges to inform people convicted of domestic violence of the legal deadlines regarding the surrender of firearms. Such people have two days to surrender their weapons.

When asked if the bill would impose a penalty on judges for failing to provide the notice, Sen. Jamin B. “Jamie” Raskin, D-Montgomery and sponsor of the Senate version of the bill said no.

“But they’re judges,” he added. “They’ll comply.”

Blasberg said he and other gun rights advocates were pleased that the proposal this year will include language allowing gun owners to surrender the weapons to a federally licensed gun dealer but said more work needs to be done for those who are sent to jail before being able to comply with the law. Blasberg called on the legislature to add language that would allow for the creation of a power of attorney for a third party who could surrender the weapons on behalf of the person who was convicted and sent to jail.