The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Politics

March 30, 2013

Five questions about Maryland's gun-control bill

(Continued)

There appears to be little middle ground for compromise, so will the House or Senate version win out?

3. Could an even tougher mental-health provision enter the fold?

State Del. Peter Hammen, D-Baltimore, the HGO's chairman, has been working with the state's psychiatric association and state Del. Luiz Simmons, D-Montgomery, to craft a compromise on a bill proposed by Simmons. That measure would make it mandatory for mental-health providers to report a patient to authorities if the patient makes an overt and imminent threat of harm.

Simmons' bill is similar to the recommendation of a legislative task force that last year said psychologists, educators, social workers and addiction-treatment counselors in Maryland should be required to report such threats to local law enforcement.

It is currently optional under Maryland law. Simmons seeks to make the reporting mandatory.

4. Could the joint committee make other changes to the bill?

Simmons is hoping Hammen will put the power of his chairmanship behind the mandatory reporting requirement. But if he doesn't, Simmons is likely to go it alone and try to persuade members of the two committees to attach the provision to the governor's bill. It could be one of dozens of such attempts by lawmakers when the two committees get together. Forty amendments were added to the governor's bill in the Senate.

Simmons also plans to introduce a measure that would ban gun sales to defendants who succeed in having a violent criminal conviction expunged — a far more widespread practice in Maryland than in other states with strict gun-control legislation.

5. What's the wild card?

Does House Judiciary Chairman Joseph Vallario Jr., D-Prince George's, have a trick up his sleeve? The powerful chairman is no friend of what he calls "knee jerk" legislation. The few gun bills that have passed his committee in recent years have often taken years of refinement before winning his approval.

Vallario's power has seemingly been diluted under the joint-committee arrangement. Or has it?

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