Maryland gun rights supporters bracing for referendum showdown

Have begun process to block legislation

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Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley has yet to sign his gun control bill, but gun rights supporters are already gearing up for a referendum that would let voters decide whether they want to keep the sweeping legislation.

Delegate Patrick L. McDonough said Tuesday that gun rights advocates have begun the referendum process for the Firearm Safety Act of 2013, which could block the legislation from taking effect in October.

“If we are successful, the gun bill is declared suspended June 30, making it dead as a duck,” said Mr. McDonough, Baltimore County Republican. “It would appear on the ballot in statewide elections November 2014. The benefit would be people will retain their Second Amendment rights for another 17 months.”

Mr. McDonough said he knew at least two people “who are competent and serious and already going through the process of working with the attorney general.”

Petitioners must file 55,736 signatures, with no more than half coming from any one county or Baltimore. One-third of the signatures need to be filed by midnight May 31.

Erich Pratt, spokesman for the Springfield-based Gun Owners of America, said that, while his organization does not have a Maryland chapter, getting behind a referendum effort “is definitely something we would look at.”

The Maryland General Assembly last week passed some of the strongest gun control laws in the country. Along with limiting handgun magazines to no more than 10 rounds, the law puts 45 guns on a banned list of assault weapons and requires residents to have a gun license. They must also submit their fingerprints as part of the application process. Only five other states require fingerprinting for gun licenses.

The assault-weapons ban provides a clause that grandfathers people who own or purchase their firearms before the law takes effect in October.

“We love the new law,” said Vincent DeMarco, president of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence. “The law will save lives.”

Recent polling indicates a clear majority of Marylanders support gun control measures like those in the firearm act.

Mr. O'Malley, a Democrat, on Monday acknowledged the possibility of gun advocates pushing for a referendum, but he pointed to the failure of a public vote last year to overturn a bill to extend in-state college tuition to some illegal immigrants.

“When initially it was passed in the legislature, there weren’t a whole lot of people that might have predicted that,” he told reporters in Annapolis.

Mr. DeMarco said he was confident that, even if supporters gather the required signatures, a referendum will be voted down.

“We want this law to take effect as soon as possible to save lives as soon as possible,” he said. “The people of Maryland are united behind this big time. We hope they don’t do it, but if they do it we will win.”

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