The Maryland State Board of Elections confirmed Tuesday that it is reviewing paperwork for a petition to put sweeping firearms legislation on the 2014 ballot, a day before a Maryland state delegate plans to announce progress in an effort to challenge the recently passed gun laws.
Online organization MDPetitions.com the same group that spearheaded the referendum effort against the Dream Act, gay marriage and redistricting last year submitted the paperwork last week. Delegate Neil C. Parrott, Washington Republican and chairman of the group, is scheduled to kick off a fundraising event Wednesday "regarding the gun restriction and licensing bill," according to a post on the group's website.
The event notice mentions that representatives from the National Rifle Association, Maryland Shall Issue, Western Maryland Sportsman Club and the Associated Gun Clubs of Baltimore are set to attend.
The confirmation by the elections board puts to rest questions regarding when and if a referendum petition would be started, after the divisive gun law was approved earlier this month.
Proposed by Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, in January, the Firearm Safety Act of 2013 is one of the country's strictest legislative packages for gun control. Under the new law, gun owners are required to have a license for their firearm and they must submit their fingerprints. The new legislation also adds 45 guns to a list of banned firearms and limits handgun magazines to no more than 10 rounds.
Organizers behind the MDPetitions site warned in a recent online post that the gun bans "are going to be ignored by criminals breaking the law." The NRA has also taken issue with the firearm act. During an interview with WTOP Radio last week, NRA President David A. Keene labeled the legislation "foolish" and said a lawsuit against the ban was inevitable.
"Some of it's unconstitutional and other parts of it simply put burdens on honest citizens who have every right under the Second Amendment to own and use firearms for legitimate purposes," he said.
Whether petition supporters will get the issue to the ballot box next year also will depend on Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and the signatures of about 56,000 Maryland voters.
Even before referendum supporters can hit the streets with their clipboards and pens, the elections board and the attorney general's office must approve the petition's format.
"The petition sponsor submits the draft language and the petition format to us, through the attorney general's office they review that and determine whether it meets the requirements of the law," explained Donna Duncan, assistant deputy for election policy.
For an issue to make it on the ballot as a statewide referendum, organizers must collect 55,736 signatures. One third of the signatures must be collected by May 31.
A spokesman for Mr. Gansler said the office has a week to notify petitioners of any problems with the language or format of their submission.
Ms. Duncan said MDPetitions.com has also submitted paperwork for referendums on legislation to repeal of the death penalty and a law requiring teachers to pay union fees.
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