- The Washington Times - Monday, February 26, 2007

ANNAPOLIS — State lawmakers attempting again to ban assault weapons in Maryland are hoping Gov. Martin O’Malley will give his support as hearings on the issue begin today.

“That’s what we think is very different this year than in the past,” said Sen. Michael G. Lenett, Montgomery Democrat and chief sponsor of the bill. “We have a governor who is very committed to public safety.”

Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat, pledged his support for the proposed ban while campaigning last year for governor.

The Democrat-controlled General Assembly has failed four straight years to pass such legislation, and members think Mr. O’Malley’s support this year might make the difference.

“Realistically, what it’s going to take is for Governor Martin O’Malley to get strongly behind it,” said former Delegate Neil Quinter, a Howard Democrat and chief sponsor of the legislation from 2003 to 2006.

Mr. O’Malley is not expected to testify at legislative hearings like he recently did for a repeal of the state death penalty.

The bill would effectively reinstate at the state level the federal ban on assault weapons that lapsed in 2004.

“If it wasn’t good enough for the federal government, why should the same law be enacted on the state level?” National Rifle Association spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said yesterday. He said Congress did not reauthorize the ban because there was no conclusive proof that it reduced violent crime.

The legislation would prohibit Maryland residents from owning three types of assault weapons: an assault long gun, an assault pistol and a copycat weapon.

Opponents of the bill say the ban would infringe on their constitutional rights.

“I’m hopeful there is no momentum to pass additional restrictions on my constituents’ Second Amendment rights,” said Delegate Christopher B. Shank, Washington County Republican and member of the House Judiciary Committee.

Legislation to impose a ban has died in the committee four straight years with the help of Delegate Joseph F. Vallario Jr., Southern Maryland Democrat.

“Vallario is no fan of gun legislation or death-penalty legislation, for that matter,” Mr. Quinter said.

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, which will hear testimony on the bill today, likely will submit the key vote.

Lawmakers and political observers say the swing vote will be from Sen. James Brochin, a Baltimore County Democrat who frequently splits with his party on social issues.

“He is certainly one of the people who is a critical vote on the committee,” Mr. Lenett said.

The committee’s four Republicans and Sen. Norman R. Stone Jr., Baltimore County Democrat, are expected to vote against the proposed ban.

Mr. Brochin said last night that he would vote against the bill.

“If it gets killed in the Senate, yes, it will be done in the House,” Mr. Quinter said.

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