Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Gun Debate Cliffhanger Emerging in Maryland: Democratic Senators Astle/Middleton Hold Key to Preventing Filibuster

PLUS: Anti-Gun Violence Forces Scrambling to Fight NRA Efforts with Mass Rally on Friday  //  DETAILS BELOW

BACKGROUND: The Maryland gun law backstory may be well known to some Maryland Juice readers, but it is worth reiterating today. After the mass shootings Newtown, Connecticut, policymakers quickly revived a long-stalled discussion about what sorts of gun regulations would be reasonable and respectful of the Constitution. Indeed, after years of abandonment by the Democratic Party -- gun control had become an overnight priority across the nation. 

 In Maryland, Governor Martin O'Malley and legislative leaders quickly zeroed in on an assault weapons ban and other licensing requirements as their response to the Newtown massacre. The effort is currently moving in the Maryland State Senate, but the bill does not yet have a final form. Senators have been weighing many Republican amendments to the bill, and our sources indicate that Senate President Mike Miller's office has been working to water down the regulations proposed by Gov. O'Malley and Senator Brian Frosh -- a candidate for Attorney General in 2014. Right now it looks like the Senate floor vote could happen Friday.

The Capital Gazette described the current version of the bill as follows (excerpt below):
CAPITAL GAZETTE: O’Malley’s Firearm Safety Act of 2013 would give Maryland some of the country’s strictest gun regulations.
It bans military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips, mandates fingerprinting and licensing for future gun owners, and tightens rules to make it harder for former patients of mental hospitals to purchase guns....

POLL SHOWS OVERWHELMING SUPPORT FOR O'MALLEY GUN LAW PACKAGE - Meanwhile, a new Washington Post poll shows that Marylanders overwhelmingly support O'Malley's gun control package (excerpt below): 
WASHINGTON POST: Maryland residents overwhelmingly support Gov. Martin O’Malley’s plan to force gun buyers to submit to fingerprinting, safety training and more background checks, according to a new Washington Post poll.

Across the state, fully 85 percent back the governor’s licensing plan and 73 percent do so “strongly.” They also support banning high-capacity ammunition clips and assault weapons — two other portions of O’Malley’s (D) bill, which in the wake of the December school shooting in Newtown, Conn., would give Maryland among the nation’s strictest gun-control laws.... 

WARNING: GUN LAWS MAY FACE FILIBUSTER - Democrats in the State Senate believe they  have a majority of the body on board to pass O'Malley's gun control package, but they have not yet pinned down enough votes to avoid a filibuster. 

Maryland Juice's inside sources are concerned that Democratic State Senators Mac Middleton and John Astle may join the GOP filibuster of the Democratic gun control package-- thereby preventing their colleagues from getting to vote on the assault weapons ban and other licensing requirements. Its now now or never folks. If you want to affect gun control policy in Maryland, contact these guys now:

Senator Mac Middleton: 
(410) 841-3616

Senator John Astle 
(410) 841-3578

It seems difficult to imagine that Senator Mac Middleton could hope to succeed Mike Miller for Senate President if he joins his caucus in filibustering priorites like gun control. This should be interesting.

NRA SCARE TACTICS SUCCEEDED IN SHAKING SOME DEMOCRATS // RALLY ON FRIDAY TO GET THE BACKS OF GUN LAW ADVOCATES - Throughout this process, Maryland Juice has heard numerous tidbits indicating that closeted conservadems in the Senate have been dragging their feet in opposition to some gun control measures. Others yet started wavering after the NRA's scare tactic of bringing out a mob of protestors and gun control opponents to Annapolis:

Marylanders line-up to testify on gun control legislation (Source: Maryland Shooters)

Maryland Democrats and gun control supporters are pushing very, very hard to try and get members of the public to not be complacement this time. They want to drown out the NRA scare tactics by bringing out their own mob of gun control supporters on Friday:

HOUSE HEARING ON FRIDAY // DETAILS BELOW - Friday is also the date that gun law hearings will take place in the Maryland House. Details below:
(1)  Hearings will begin at noon (not 1:00 p.m.) in the Joint Hearing Room.

(2)  Expert testimony will run for a maximum of 4 hours: 1 hour proponent; 1 hour opponent; 1 hour proponent; 1 hour opponent. This means the Administration will have approximately 2 hours for all our panels, thus statements should be very brief.

(3) Following expert testimony, members of the public will have 1 minute each to testify.

(4) No end time will be placed on sign-ups or the hearing but we will put a statement on the front of the MGA web page indicating that based on the number of people expected to show up on Friday, building capacity, staff limitations and time limitations mean that it is unlikely that every individual will have the opportunity to speak.   MGA will remind people (or inform them) that the hearings will be live streamed and available to watch over the internet.   MGA will also outline all of the ways, besides live testimony, that members of the public can register their thoughts and opinions on this issue with their elected representatives (written testimony, email, letters, phone calls).

(5) Other information that will go up on the MGA website tomorrow: (a) start time for testimony sign-up (8:30 a.m.); (b) a statement that expert testimony will be heard from 12 – 4:00 p.m.; (c) a statement that testimony, outside of expert witnesses, will be limited to 1 minute per testifier; (d) a statement that people who wish to provide written testimony should bring 70 copies with them on Friday. 
(6) Written testimony can be submitted in 3 places: outside (for those wanting to avoid the lines ); in front of the JUD committee; and at the sign-up tables.


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