A gun-control bill endorsed by Gov. Martin O’Malley passed the Senate on Thursday after days of spirited debate and heads now to the House of Delegates.
There are Washington County legislators such as Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, who are opposed to the bill with “every fiber of our being.”
On the other side is Sen. Ronald N. Young, D-Frederick/Washington, who said that the bill might not be the complete answer but is a step in the right direction.
The bill passed 28 to 19 about 12:30 p.m. Thursday, with the day’s proceedings lasting more than four hours. All of the supporters were Democrats. Seven Democrats and all 12 Senate Republicans voted against the measure.
The bill bans assault weapons and restricts the capacity of a magazine to 10 rounds, according to The Associated Press. Anyone with a mental illness who has been involuntarily committed would also be prohibited from possessing a firearm. The measure also has a licensing requirement for handgun buyers to submit fingerprints to state police. The provision is intended to reduce the number of guns purchased by a friend or family member of someone who is not allowed to own a gun.
Shank, who voted against the bill, said that it was one of the worst pieces of legislation he had seen in 15 years, one that infringes on the Second Amendment rights of Marylanders.
“Despite what the proponents say, it will do very little to stop the issue of gun violence in Maryland,” he said.
Shank said that assault weapons only represent a minuscule amount of crimes committed every year.
Some of the amendments to the bill had made incremental improvements to a very bad bill, he said.
One of them related to creating a civil penalty instead of a criminal one for those who fail to register their handguns.
Another amendment proposed by Shank to remove the fingerprinting clause did not pass the Senate.
“The structure they have come up with, I think, will have the unintended consequence of deterring people from seeking treatment for mental health issues ... which is dangerous,” he said.
Young said that no one has any illusion that the gun-control bill is going to solve all the problems with gun violence.
Young narrated a story about a boy who sees a thousand starfish washed up on a beach and tries to save them by throwing some of them back in the water. A man tells the boy that he is not going to save all of them. The boy tells the man that he “saved that one” as he throws another starfish back into the water.
Young’s point: The gun-control bill is a step in the right direction.
“I don’t think there is anything in there that is infringing on anyone’s rights. It is not taking anyone’s guns away,” he said.
“We are overwhelmed with guns in the country today,” Young said. “If we keep 10 guns out of killers’ hands in Maryland, it’s worth it.”
Young is the only legislator from the Washington County delegation who supports the gun-bill in its present form.
Sen. George C. Edwards, R-Garrett/Allegany/Washington, who also voted against the passage of the bill Thursday, pointed out that Chicago has some of the strictest gun laws in the country.
“Look at the number of people (in Chicago) who are killed with guns,” Edwards said. “Someone wants to commit a crime with a gun, they are going to find a gun.”