ANNAPOLIS — Some House Democrats are pushing for changes to Gov. Martin O'Malley's gun control bill and Republicans are warning that even if the legislation passes, voters and the courts might get the final say.
Another crowd of hundreds of Second Amendment activists gathered Tuesday in Annapolis to testify on several gun bills and to rally against the governor's proposal, which would ban assault weapons and require residents to obtain a permit and provide their fingerprints before purchasing a handgun.
The proposal passed the Senate last week and is being considered by two House committees.
Opposing lawmakers say they still hope for major changes to the bill but are prepared to collect petitions for a referendum or to sue the state if they don't get their way.
"We're going to fight it here, we're going to fight it in the courts, we're going to fight it every step of the way," said Delegate Michael D. Smigiel Sr., Cecil Republican. "There is no legislature, there is no executive and there is no court that can do anything to interfere with the Second Amendment."
Tuesday marked the third time during this year's General Assembly session that a large number of gun-rights supporters have gathered in Annapolis to call attention to what they consider to be an overreaching proposal by Mr. O'Malley, a Democrat who proposed his legislation in response to mass shootings last year that included the tragedies at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.
The Senate approved a version of the governor's bill last week that lowered some of the licensing fees associated with a new license-to-buy permit and tightened restrictions on purchases by the mentally ill, but some House members say they aren't satisfied with the product.
Republicans argue that the assault weapons ban and license requirements will hamstring law-abiding residents and go ignored by criminals and that forcing gun buyers to give their fingerprints is overly intrusive.
Delegate Curtis S. Anderson, Baltimore Democrat, complained that the bill does nothing to address what he says is the major cause of gun violence in his city -- the drug trade.
Mr. Anderson, chairman of the city's House delegation, said he wants more funding for drug treatment and education programs and has other reservations about the bill that he will discuss with his fellow members of the House Judiciary Committee, which is vetting the bill jointly with the House Health and Government Operations Committee.
"The governor's bill addresses problems that I guess would be relevant to people at Sandy Hook or in Colorado, but if we're going to do something, why aren't we doing something about the problems that we face?" he said. "Our bill will definitely be different from the Senate's."
Mr. Anderson said he expects numerous changes will be made to the bill and that other tweaks could come in the form of separate legislation.
House Judiciary Chairman Joseph F. Vallario Jr., Prince George's Democrat, said he doesn't expect committee members to consider amendments and vote on the bill any earlier than next week. He said the two committees could vote together or separately.
Both Mr. Smigiel and Delegate Neil C. Parrott, Washington Republican who helped lead efforts to force several bills to referendum last year, said they expect opponents will be able to collect the necessary 55,736 voter signatures to force a November 2014 vote on the bill. If passed, the law could not take effect until after the vote.
Mr. Smigiel also said he would expect Second Amendment groups to challenge the law in court, as they have done to the state's current concealed-carry handgun permit law.
That law, which requires applicants to provide a "good and substantial reason" for needing a permit, was struck down last year as unconstitutional by a U.S. District Court judge, but the state's appeal is now being considered by the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.
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