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Gun Bill Survives State Senate -- So Far
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February 28, 2013
With a final vote scheduled for today, the state Senate has backed the most controversial provisions of Governor Martin O’Malley’s gun control package. But opponents have maintained a stiff resistance. WYPR’s Karen Hosler gives us an update.
Karen Hosler: Here’s a robocall message that went out over the past few days to the Annapolis-area constituents of Senator John Astle.
Robocall: Right now, your Senator, John Astle, is planning to vote for Martin O’Malley’s gun grab bill. Unless you and I contact him over the next 24 hours, your senator is going to support the radical gun ban package that will all but destroy the Second Amendment in Maryland.
Hosler: The call came from MarylandLiberty.org, a libertarian group affiliated with the Gun Owners of America that was clearly concerned about the Senate’s marathon debate this week on Governor O’Malley’s gun control bill. The Senate has backed the most controversial elements of the measure, including a licensing provision that requires handgun buyers to give their fingerprints to state police. But Astle calls himself a “gun guy.” He voted against the governor on licensing and other key issues yesterday. He was puzzled by the calls.
State Senator John Astle: They’ve been on other legislators as well. I’m not the only one. But it’s saying--and these are all people who voted red on the second reader up here today--saying that we were going to support the governor’s bill. It sounded a little strange.
Hosler: Or perhaps it just wasn’t targeted well enough. Republican and rural lawmakers took sharp aim at the requirement that handgun buyers in Maryland must be licensed, fingerprinted and trained. But despite support from Astle and other Democrats they missed their mark. The closest vote—a 23-23 tie with one senator absent--came on an attempt by Republican Senator Chris Shank of Hagerstown to remove the fingerprinting requirement. He said it was just the first step toward taking all guns away from private citizens.
State Senator Chris Shank: So It’s not a stretch to say that fingerprinting this year, a couple other things in subsequent years, ultimately leading to confiscation. And that’s the concern, that’s the disconnect from the thousands of people who are concerned about these provisions.
Hosler: Senator Brian Frosh, floor leader on the bill, said the 27 to 20 vote earlier in the day in favor of retaining the overall licensing provision was encouraging.
State Senator Brian Frosh: I think it was a strong statement that the body wants a real gun violence prevention measure. I think the licensing provisions are the most important. There are many other important provisions but they’re the most important.
Hosler: The fingerprinting issue was highly charged in part because Senate President Mike Miller had made clear he was an opponent. He told reporters he’d drive to Virginia to buy a gun before getting fingerprinted for the first time in his 70 years. But Frosh read a long list of Marylanders who are already required to get fingerprints including teachers, day care providers and health technicians. And then he noted those included in Miller’s constituency.
Frosh: In Calvert County, fortune-tellers, palm readers, soothsayers and similar persons. This is not that big a deal.
Hosler: Howard County Republican Allan Kittleman argued that licensing shouldn’t be required to exercise a right.
State Senator Allan Kittleman: But I think this is a freedom issue. I think this is an issue involving the constitutional right to own a firearm.
Hosler: As a gesture toward greater equality of gun ownership, though, the senators agreed to cut the licensing fee to $25 from $50. I’m Karen Hosler, reporting in Annapolis, for 88.1 WYPR.
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