Maryland Gov. O'Malley Backs Gun Control Bill

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BALTIMORE-Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley announced today that he will bring legislation to his state's legislature that would become one of the nation's most expansive responses to last month's tragic school shootings in Connecticut.

Among the more sweeping proposals would be a requirement for most prospective gun buyers to provide fingerprints to state police, undergo a background check, and complete a mandatory gun-safety course in order to obtain an owners permit.

Buyers of shotguns and hunting rifles would be exempt from the measure. Currently only Maryland residents seeking a concealed-carry permit must submit their fingerprints.

Speaking before a two-day gun violence summit at Johns Hopkins University, O'Malley said the proposals, which will include an assault weapons ban, were an attempt to cure what he called the "sickness in this country" of violent crimes with firearms.

"It makes absolutely no sense when you look at the level of carnage on our streets from guns to blame every factor but guns," he said. "If we are to have a comprehensive approach then let us be comprehensive."

Maryland's Democratic-controlled legislature is likely to pass the proposals, which will also address high-capacity magazines by halving the maximum number of bullets allowed in clips to ten.

O'Malley said such weapons "have no place on the streets of Baltimore or in any other neighborhood in our state."

The bill will include measures seeking to ban sales to residents with mental illness that have shown violent tendencies, but avoids the National Rifle Association's call for armed guards in all schools. Instead it would allocate a $25 million fund to improve school safety in the form of auto-locking doors and mandatory guest check-in requirements, among others items.

Johns Hopkins' summit was timed to begin one month to the hour from when Adam Lanza killed 20 first graders and seven adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., using a Bushmaster .223 assault-style rifle.

"Perhaps there is no way to completely prevent the next Newtown tragedy, but then again perhaps there is. None of us can predict the future," O'Malley continued. "And yet we know every life is valuable."

If signed into law Maryland will join New York and other Democratic-controlled states in an active push for restricting gun rights and other measures in the wake of the Newtown, Conn. shootings. New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg joined O'Malley at Johns Hopkins to continue his own push for reform at a national level - including universal background checks for all gun sales.

A July CNN poll reported 96 of every hundred Americans supported universal background checks for all gun purchases, regardless of origin. An estimated 40 percent of gun sales in the US to take place without a background check, according to statistics compiled by the Brady Campaign to Stop Gun Violence.

"There's really no debate here, it's common sense," Bloomberg said.

Last week Mayor Bloomberg told reporters his office had been advising a task force led by Vice President Biden on a federal response to gun violence. That group, which has held working meetings with law enforcement officials, media representatives, and mental health advocates is expected to release their findings tomorrow.

A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found 54 percent of Americans favor stricter gun laws, numerically a five-year high albeit not significantly different than in recent years. The poll - released three days after the Connecticut shootings - also shows 59 percent support a ban on high-capacity ammunition clips specifically.

The event took place at Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Heath, named for the mayor that claims the university as his alma-mater.