Poll: 80 percent support licenses for gun buyers in Md.

ANNAPOLIS — More than 80 percent of Maryland voters support requiring residents to obtain a license before purchasing a handgun, according to a poll released Wednesday by a gun-control group.

A poll commissioned by Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence found that 81 percent of voters — including 64 percent of Republicans — prefer instituting a policy where would-be gun purchasers would have to get a license and go through fingerprinting, safety training and a criminal background check.

Such a requirement is included in Gov. Martin O'Malley’s gun control bill, which is being considered by the General Assembly and has drawn criticism from Second Amendment advocates.

The poll was released the same day that Sarah Brady — wife of gun-control advocate and former Reagan press secretary James Brady — was expected to meet with the governor and leading state lawmakers.

Maryland “has good laws now, but they need to be strengthened some,” Mrs. Brady told reporters. “And that’s what the governor is proposing and I think it’s very important.”

Mr. O'Malley, a Democrat, has proposed broad gun control legislation in response to recent mass shootings including last year’s tragedy in Newtown, Conn.

His legislation would make Maryland the 12th state to require a license to purchase a handgun and would also ban assault weapons and tighten restrictions on magazine capacities.

Supporters of a license-to-purchase requirement say it has reduced the amount of illegal straw purchases — where someone buys and handgun on behalf of a person who may be restricted from doing so — in other states, and could do so in Maryland.

But Republicans and some Democrats have heaped scorn on the proposal, arguing that it restricts and deters law-abiding purchasers without specifically addressing criminals.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Prince George’s Democrat, has suggested that a license-to-purchase provision may violate the Second Amendment and could be stricken from the bill.

“We take an oath to uphold the Constitution,” said House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell, Calvert Republican. “And if we violate that oath because we don’t like a portion of the Constitution, we’re not upholding our obligation to the citizens of Maryland.”

Mr. O’Donnell declined to comment on the poll’s results, saying he had yet to read them.

Mr. Miller was expected to meet with Mrs. Brady on Wednesday to discuss the governor’s proposal.

Wednesday’s poll, which surveyed 974 registered voters, showed that 89 percent of Democrats, 78 percent of independents and 64 percent of Republicans favor a license-to-purchase requirement. The poll did not ask their opinions on the governor’s entire bill.

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