- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 15, 2016

ANNAPOLIS — The House of Delegates on Tuesday approved a bill to ban guns from public college and university campuses.

Sponsored by Delegate Ben Barnes, Prince George’s Democrat, the measure passed in a 80-54 vote after weeks of debate.

House Republicans had introduced several amendments to soften the legislation during floor debate, including one proposal to allow student victims of sexual assault or stalking with a concealed carry permit to have a firearm on campus. All of the floor amendments failed.

Currently, Maryland college campuses are authorized to set their own firearms policies, so long as they don’t violate state law. No college campus in the state allows concealed weapons, but Frostburg State University does allow students to register and store guns with campus security.

The bill would set a standard policy for all of Maryland’s public colleges. It now goes to the Senate.

The firearms debate continued throughout the afternoon, as the House Judiciary Committee considered a slew of gun-related bills, including one in opposition to Mr. Barnes’ bill.

Delegate Richard Impallaria, Harford Republican, urged the committee to consider allowing school employees to carry concealed guns on campuses to help students and their parents feel safe.

Dan Blasberg, president of Maryland Shall Issue, a gun-rights group, argued that gun-free school zones make students sitting ducks for mass shooters.

“It makes sense to keep the bad guys guessing,” Mr. Blasberg said. He argued police officers in uniform guarding schools had a “target on their back” and that teachers with guns would be more effective in slowing down a gunman.

But committee Democrats blanched at the idea of guns on schools campuses, and pushed Republicans to continue with the existing system of school resource officers, who are being used in five school systems in the state.

“I can’t conceive of a school system with this in place,” said Delegate William C. Smith, Montgomery Democrat.

The committee also considered a proposal to reclassify antique firearms under the state definition of firearms. This would require anyone trying to buy a gun made in 1899 or earlier to go through the same background check and fingerprinting process necessary to buy a modern gun.

Delegate Aruna Miller, Montgomery Democrat, said she would offer an amendment so that the legislation only would be applied to preventing felons from purchasing an antique firearm.

Felons with violent offenses are barred for life from possessing or purchasing a weapon, but since federal and state law don’t consider antique weapons a dangerous firearm, it acts as a loophole to allow felons to buy them.

Ms. Miller cited as the bill’s inspiration the fatal shooting in June of Mariam “Shade” Adebayo, 24, by her ex-boyfriend Donald Wayne Bricker.

A violent criminal, Bricker was prohibited from purchasing a firearm, so he purchased an antique to kill Adebayo.

“How many times does this have to happen before we act?” Ms. Miller said. “Once is already too many.”

The Maryland State Police and the Attorney General’s Office said they don’t keep records on how often antique weapons are used to commit a crime.

Shannon Alford of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action said the bill would not close a loophole for felons because federal and state legislators chose to keep antique weapons out of the gun laws and that should not be undone.

“It was a deliberate choice in public policy,” Ms. Alford said.

Delegate Neil Parrott, Washington Republican, said even with the amendment, the bill would prevent families from handing down heirloom firearms to family members with a criminal record.

He said the bill was not likely to pass, considering how it would inconvenience collectors and historians who want to acquire the antique weapons.

“That’s the problem with the bill as written and amended: it requires a background check for an antique firearm,” Mr. Parrott said. “What we have is one incident. It seems like an overreaction.”

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