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Referendum on new Maryland gun control laws shot down

Petition effort falls short but opponents vow to press on

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The last obstacle standing in the way of Maryland's new gun control law was cleared this weekend, leaving gun control advocates relieved but gun rights supporters galvanized for future political action.

The Saturday deadline to submit more than 18,000 signatures calling for a referendum on the legislation passed this year by the General Assembly came up short with pro-gun petition organizers needing roughly 1,000 more signatures. Had the signatures been collected, organizers would have had until the end of June to get the remainder of the 55,736 signatures required to suspend the legislation until the 2014 election.

"This was not a failure," said Sue Payne, the Montgomery County woman who organized the petition effort. "People registered to vote, they mobilized, and there's a new place to register [petitions]. It was remarkable considering we were really at it three weeks and two days," Ms. Payne said.

Ms. Payne said the six counties that submitted the most signatures were Baltimore, Carroll, Harford, Anne Arundel, Montgomery and Frederick.

She sprang into action after Delegate Neil C. Parrott, Washington Republican and the man behind MDPetitions.com, announced in April that he would not be pursuing a referendum, but instead would lend his support to a lawsuit proposed by the National Rifle Association.

So Ms. Payne set up her own grass-roots petition site, Free State Petitions, and began collecting signatures in early May.

"I'm so proud I tried to give these people a voice," Ms. Payne said. "This is not going away. This is going to be something where we are going to be able to affect changes with tools of the Maryland Constitution. We're going to make sure people know who really supports Second Amendment rights."

Vincent DeMarco, president of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, said the passing deadline meant that "now this lifesaving law can take effect as planned."

The law adds 45 guns to a list of banned weapons, but has a clause that grandfathers people who own or purchase their firearms before the law takes effect Oct. 1. The legislative package also includes a 10-round limit on handgun magazines, a requirement that prospective gun owners obtain licenses for weapons and provide their fingerprints as part of the application process.

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