The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


March 30, 2013

Five questions about Maryland's gun-control bill


On Thursday, O'Malley sent a letter to supporters with the subject line "It's time," noting that it had been 100 days since Newtown. The message urged Marylanders to call delegates and urge passage of his bill.

If the votes aren't there to weaken O'Malley's assault-weapons ban, it is unlikely that leaders of the Judiciary Committee will risk a public vote, which could expose supportive Democrats to challenges on the left in next year's primary.

Although that scenario seems most likely, there also remains a possibility of a public fight among Democrats over the ban. If that happens, it is also possible a majority of the Judiciary could vote to weaken the ban but still be outmaneuvered.

The decision by the speaker of the House of Delegates, Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, to co-assign the governor's bill to two committees means it could be advanced to the full House over the objections of a majority in either committee, as long as a majority of the two combined go along. Politically, that's a strong-arm tactic that the House speaker's office has seemed keen to avoid.

2. How will the House and Senate compromise on mental health?

House lawmakers appear likely to agree with the Senate on a tough, new restriction similar to one in Virginia that bans gun purchases by residents who are committed against their will for psychiatric treatment for any length of time.

Unlike the Senate, however, members of the HGO appear unwilling to go in the same direction regarding patients who voluntarily seek inpatient treatment.

Last month, the Senate went even further than O'Malley's measure when it recommended banning guns from those who end up in emergency rooms with mental problems and are then taken directly to mental-health facilities, regardless of whether they go voluntarily.

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