Md. Democrats Introduce New Gun Ban, Enforcement Laws - Southern Maryland Headline News

Md. Democrats Introduce New Gun Ban, Enforcement Laws

ANNAPOLIS (Feb. 10, 2016)—Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Calvert, and House Speaker Mike Busch, Anne Arundel, on Wednesday announced two new gun control bills and one enforcement-related bill, alongside Democratic sponsors and cosponsors in the House and Senate. This comes days after the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals sent Maryland's assault weapon ban back to a lower court for strict review.

One bill bans guns on college campuses; one (HB 1000) bans anyone on the FBI's enigmatic and extrajudicial terrorist watch list from purchasing—and prohibits them from being issued a permit to carry, wear, or transport—a gun in Maryland; and the third requires judges to inform anyone convicted of a domestic violence offense that they must surrender their weapons.

Miller said he has six grandchildren on college campuses, and he wants them to be "gun-free sanctuaries."

"None of us want our children to be exposed to gun violence when they're off at school, whether it's walking into kindergarten or walking into graduate school," said Sen. Richard Madaleno, D-Montgomery, who is sponsoring the legislation that would ban guns on all college campuses in Maryland. Delegate Ben Barnes, D-Anne Arundel, is sponsoring the bill in the House.

Delegate Kathy Szeliga, a Republican from Baltimore County, said she was not convinced that banning guns on college campuses would keep people safer.

"My aide, her son was at Virginia Tech when the shooting occurred," Szeliga said. "Her reaction was if someone had a gun, maybe lives would've been saved."

Madaleno warned against only thinking of mass shootings when considering gun safety. He said he was more concerned with individual instances, like suicide or relationship violence.

"We need to dispel this Hollywood-driven myth that any of us can turn into James Bond and respond to some sort of incident," he said.

Another bill in the package, sponsored by Sen. Jamie Raskin and Delegate Will Smith, both Democrats from Montgomery, is meant to keep guns away from people convicted of domestic violence.

Currently under Maryland law, felons and those who have been convicted of abuse aren't allowed to own or buy guns, but Raskin said the problem is enforcement.

This law would require judges to inform those convicted of domestic violence that they have 48 hours to surrender their guns to law enforcement or a licensed gun dealer, and five days to produce written proof that they have done so.

Though the law has no penalty for judges who do not comply, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said merely providing a legal mechanism will be enough.

"They're not doing it now because it's an oversight. If the legislature lays out a clear path for them to follow, they'll follow it," Frosh said. "Judges follow the law."

Lastly, legislation sponsored in the Senate by James Rosapepe, D-Prince George's, and in the House by Luke Clippinger, D-Baltimore, would prevent anyone who is on the federal terrorist watch list from buying a gun prohibit the sale, rental, or transfer of a regulated firearm, rifle, or shotgun to a person who is on the Terrorist Watchlist maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and prohibiting the Secretary of State Police from issuing a permit to carry, wear, or transport a handgun to a person listed on the Terrorist Watchlist.

"We're protecting people in Maryland, and really people across the country, by preventing people on the terror watch list from buying guns," Clippinger said.

The law is modeled after a similar one in New Jersey, signed by Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican.

Frosh said he didn't anticipate a constitutional problem with restricting gun ownership for people who may be on the list but haven't been convicted of a crime.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday afternoon the governor had not seen the bills yet and didn't know whether they would reach his desk, so he had no comment. She also noted that in a meeting with the governor Tuesday about legislative priorities, Miller did not mention his plans for these bills.

This announcement came a week after the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a lower court ruling upholding an assault weapon ban that was part of the Maryland Firearm Safety Act in 2013.

The court's ruling does not overturn the act, instead the case goes back to the U.S. District Court to apply a "strict scrutiny" test on whether the FSA violates the Second Amendment. Frosh said his office will appeal the ruling, and meanwhile, the assault weapon ban is still in effect.

Delegate Susan Krebs, a Republican from Carroll County who has supported gun rights in the past, said at first blush, the new legislation seems unnecessary.

"All they want to do is restrict, restrict, restrict, instead of getting to the root of the problem, which not the guns, it's the people," she said.

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