ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Sweeping gun-control legislation promoted by Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley once appeared on a fast track to clear the Maryland General Assembly. It passed the state Senate largely intact on Feb. 28 and moved to the House of Delegates, where lawmakers held a marathon hearing on the measure the next day.
A month later, however, the bill has languished without another vote as members of the House Judiciary Committee have wrestled privately with whether to weaken O'Malley's proposed assault-weapons ban.
With little more than a week remaining in the session, and as the Newtown, Conn., tragedy made headlines again Thursday with President Barack Obama meeting with victims' family members, the bill appeared on the move.
On Friday, the House Judiciary Committee and the chamber's Health and Government Operations Committee, or the HGO, are scheduled to meet for the first time since March 1. The two have joint jurisdiction and are expected to vote on proposed amendments to O'Malley's bill.
It remains to be seen exactly what this rare joint committee will decide to do and what last-minute compromises will be worked out with the Senate. Here are five questions to keep in mind as the voting begins:
1. Will the House committee vote to weaken O'Malley's proposed assault-weapons ban? Will it even hold a public vote to do so?
Last week, key Democrats on the committee said they were reluctant to go along with O'Malley's complete ban. They said the committee was weighing whether to keep semiautomatic rifles legal. The weapons were carried by shooters in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn., but are popular with sportsmen and veterans. They also have been rarely used in Maryland killings.
In recent days, however, pressure on those Democrats from gun-control advocates and the governor's office appears to have had an effect.