Pro-gun legislators challenge O’Malley’s gun control proposal

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By Ilana Kowarski

President Obama shoots a shotgun at Camp David, Md.

President Obama shoots a shotgun at Camp David, Md. Under the governor’s gun-control proposals, purchasers would still not need a license or training to buy rifles and shotguns, but only for handguns. White House photo

With the first hearing on Gov. Martin O’Malley’s gun control package set for a Senate hearing Wednesday, pro-gun legislators are loading up their arguments against the proposals.

The lawmakers said that O’Malley’s proposed gun-licensing fees in SB281 could exceed $400 per person, bringing the dawn of a new era when “only rich people could afford guns.”

That was the fear expressed by Del. Neil Parrott, R- Washington County, who warned that government fees could make guns prohibitively expensive for “the poor little person who lives in the inner city, surrounded by drugs and violence.”

Senate Minority Leader E.J Pipkin, R-Cecil, said that the licensing requirements were “onerous” and “a significant hurdle for those seeking to exercise a constitutional right.”
Pipkin argued that these requirements were similar to the poll taxes used to disenfranchise African Americans in the Jim Crow South.  “We’ve seen this before, where a right was infringed upon through fees and education requirements,” he said. “Whether the governor likes it or not, owning a gun is a right.”

Wide-ranging proposal

Co-sponsored by 19 Democratic senators and no Republicans, the governor’s proposed Firearms Safety Act of 2013 includes several different gun-control measures. It includes a requirement for a gun license that mandates a training course before a handgun can be purchased; bans some kinds of assault handguns and rifles; reduces from 20 rounds to 10 the amount of ammunition a clip may hold; and establishes more prohibitions for gun ownership by people being treated for mental illness.

Del.  Michael Smigiel, R-Cecil, said that the governor’s assault weapons ban would classify and prohibit guns “based on appearance” rather than firepower.  “All the weapons that they are defining as assault weapons are not assault weapons, because they can’t be used in war,” he said, adding that it is already illegal for the general public to own machine guns.

A member of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee that will hear the bills, Sen. Nancy Jacobs, R-Harford, argued that many of the country’s most popular guns would be subject to the governor’s ban.  “To say that these guns are assault weapons is a stretch of the craziest person’s imagination,” Jacobs said.

Thursday’s news conference was attended by many Republicans in Maryland’s General Assembly and also included a Democrat, Sen. John C. Astle of Anne Arundel County, who said that gun rights were a “bipartisan” issue.

Many of the legislators characterized the governor as a demagogue and claimed that he was exploiting tragedy, including Del.  Michael McDermott, whose son was a student at Virginia Tech during the college’s infamous shooting.  “This bill is about aesthetics; it’s about grandstanding and making people feel good,” he said.

“There is nothing in this bill that would prevent another Newtown or Virginia Tech.”