ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND – The Maryland House of Delegates passed what would be among the most restrictive U.S. gun-control measures Wednesday, voting to ratchet up the state’s already tough rules by requiring fingerprinting of gun buyers, new limits on firearm purchases by the mentally ill, and bans on assault weapons and magazines that hold more than 10 bullets.
The 78-61 vote handed Gov. Martin O’Malley a key policy victory as Maryland joins the ranks of Democratic-leaning states passing broad gun-control restrictions in response to the December school shootings in Connecticut — a state where lawmakers Wednesday also passed tough new gun legislation.
The bill now returns to the state Senate, which passed a substantially similar version of the legislation last month. Key senators and staffers said they expect the chamber to sign off on changes made by the House and send the measure to Gov. O’Malley, a Democrat who proposed the legislation.
Amid the wave of legislative efforts nationally, Maryland’s is the only package whose new requirements would force gun buyers to provide fingerprints and undergo classroom training, target practice and background checks to obtain a license to buy a firearm.
No state had sought to impose a licensing requirement in nearly 20 years, a period when the National Rifle Association grew increasingly powerful in American politics. The NRA criticized the Maryland House vote, continuing months of complaints that licensing and fingerprinting amount to a fundamental infringement of a constitutional right.
The vote on one of O’Malley’s top priorities of the legislative session, which ends Monday, came as federal gun-control legislation is stalled in Congress: An assault-weapons ban is no longer part of a bill, and universal background checks have bogged down.
Maryland would join five other states — Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey — in requiring fingerprinting of gun buyers. It also would join seven states and the District of Columbia in banning a wide array of assault weapons.
Under the Maryland bill, any resident wanting to buy a gun would have to pass the new training and testing requirements before receiving an ID card issued by the Maryland State Police. State officials said this card would be similar to a driver’s license, probably with a photo. It would have to be renewed every 10 years.
Marylanders would not need to get a license to buy hunting rifles and shotguns.
Under the bill, Maryland would impose blanket restrictions on people involuntarily committed for mental health treatment. The change is similar to one Virginia made after the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech University.