February 10, 2010

Unseen firearms legislation stirs gun-owner concern

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By Erich Wagner
Erich@MarylandReporter.com

Gun rights advocates were upset about a bill strengthening state gun-control laws even before anyone had seen the legislation introduced Tuesday.

Sen. Brian Frosh, D-Montgomery, Senate sponsor of the bill, called the it “comprehensive” in scope. It includes a requirement for gun license applicants to provide fingerprints to the Maryland State Police for a background check.

The bill would also expand the definition of a “habitual drunkard” in current law, a classification of people who are ineligible for purchasing firearms. Currently, a person who has been found guilty of three alcohol-related crimes in the past year can’t get a gun permit. Frosh’s bill would change that to someone convicted of two alcohol-related crimes in the past five years.

The bill would also require gun sellers to be audited at least once every two years.

“States like New Jersey and Massachusetts have these licensing requirements, and have much lower rates of gun-related violence and death,” said Frosh, chair of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, which will hear the bill. “So we think we can significantly improve public safety.”

Del. Sandy Rosenberg, D-Baltimore City, introduced the same bill in the House, where he is vice-chair of the Judiciary Committee, which will also handle the measure.

Due to administrative problems, the bill wasn’t available online Tuesday, but that hasn’t stopped Maryland Shall Issue, a gun rights organization, from posting about it on AmmoLand.com, speculating that the bill’s provisions would be “noxious.”

“Make no mistake, this bill would fundamentally change the nature of gun ownership in Maryland unlike anything we’ve seen in over a decade,” the posting said. “It is our responsibility to shut this affront to our liberties before it ever sees the light of day in a hearing.”

Del. Warren Miller, R-Howard, said he’s received over 200 e-mails from constituents concerned about the legislation, although Miller has not seen the bill and it is not expected to be online until Wednesday morning.

He said that he did not know how they learned of the bill and its contents, but that the two sponsors have historically introduced bills that “cast the state in a negative light” with gun rights activists.

“It has been proven time and again that areas with strict gun control laws have higher homicide rates and areas with less gun control have lower homicide rates,” Miller said.

UPDATE:

The bill text is now available online. You can view it here.