Hundreds of Maryland residents descended on Annapolis on Friday to lend their views to the debate over Gov. Martin O'Malley’s gun control bill, as a pair of House committees began considering the legislation.
The House Judiciary and Health and Government Operations committees held on Friday afternoon a joint hearing on the bill, which was expected to extend well into the night.
More than 950 people had signed up to testify at the hearing on the bill, which passed the Senate on Thursday in a 28-19 vote.
The governor’s bill would ban assault weapons and would require residents to obtain a license before buying a handgun, submit fingerprints and go through a background check.
It would also ban residents from owning a handgun if they have been involuntarily checked into a mental health facility or have voluntarily checked themselves into one for more than 30 days.
Mr. O'Malley, a Democrat, contends that his bill will help to prevent illegal straw purchases and gun trafficking, while opponents argue that it will discourage law-abiding citizens from owning guns but do little to deter resourceful criminals.
Protesters on both sides held rallies Friday, drawing massive crowds reminiscent of those that flocked to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee’s Feb. 6 hearing on the bill.
The Senate version of the bill passed with relative ease despite opposition from all 12 Senate Republicans and from seven of 35 Democrats.
Democrats hold a 98-43 advantage in the House, and Speaker Michael E. Busch, Anne Arundel Democrat, has said he expects the bill to pass and advance to the governor’s desk.