MD congressional Democrats oppose bill that could overturn state’s assault rifle ban

By Chavon Borden
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer

Four U.S. congressmen from Maryland say they oppose a bill introduced in the House last summer that could lift the state’s ban on assault weapons, according to interviews with the lawmakers’ spokespeople.

U.S. Reps. Anthony Brown, D-4th District, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-2nd District, John Sarbanes, D-3rd District, and Steny Hoyer, D-4th District said the Second Amendment Guarantee Act (SAGA) could put millions of people at risk because it would eventually allow Maryland citizens to purchase assault weapons with high capacity magazines.

Matthew Verghese, the communications director for Brown, said  this is an extreme bill that would impact many states, including Maryland.

“This bill, which is being aggressively pushed by the gun lobby, would lift Maryland’s regulations on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and relax our strict licensing requirements on those buying or selling shotguns and rifles,” Verghese said.

Ruppersberger opposes the bill because it prevents states like Maryland from exercising their rights to set gun policies that are in the best interest of their own communities, said Jaime Lennon, the congressman’s communications director.

“This bill would prevent states from enacting restrictions on shotguns and rifles, including assault weapons, that are more strict than federal laws,” Ruppersberger said in a statement.

Lennon said Ruppersberger is a supporter of practical gun safety measures and supports efforts to ban true assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Ruppersberger also supports requiring background checks for all gun sales, including those purchased online and at gun shows and addressing the sale of firearms to the mentally ill, Lennon said.

Lennon said it remains unclear at this time how SAGA would affect Maryland’s gun laws.

“The bill is still under consideration by the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations of the House Judiciary Committee,” Ruppersberger was quoted as saying by Lennon. “We are unaware of any current efforts to move this bill forward for a chamber vote.”

U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, who serves as the only Republican from Maryland in Congress, did not return phone calls or emails from the Baltimore Watchdog. Three other Democrats, John Delaney, Elijah Cummings and Jamie Raskin, did not return phone calls for an interview.

U.S. Rep. Chris Collins, R-NY.

U.S. Rep. Chris Collins, R-NY.

U.S. Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., has said he introduced the bill to protect the Second Amendment rights of Americans and limit the authority of states to regulate rifles and shotguns. The act would prevent states from implementing gun regulations that are more restrictive than what is required by federal law.

The bill was introduced in July in response to New York State’s Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act, which was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2013.

Collins has argued that the New York law violates the Second Amendment and federal regulations because it expanded the state’s ban on rifles and shotguns to include semi-automatic guns with detachable magazines. The New York law also bans magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

Verghese said Brown led efforts to pass some of the strongest gun laws in the nation following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012.

According to Varghese, Brown led efforts to pass the Firearm Safety Act of 2013 when he was lieutenant governor. The act banned assault rifles in Maryland and is currently being challenged in the courts.

Sarbanes believes that Republicans in Congress and the Nation Rifle Association (NRA) are seeking to deny states the ability to decide how best to protect their constituents from gun violence, according a written statement released by his office.

Sarbanes said data shows that states with stronger gun safety laws have fewer gun deaths.

“Republicans in Congress talk a big game when it comes to local control and states’ rights,” Sarbanes said in a statement. “But apparently those principles are no match for the big-money donors and lobbyists at the NRA and the gun manufacturing industry.”

Hoyer supports the bipartisan King-Thompson bill, which is intended to strengthen background check requirements and keep guns out of the hands of people who should not own them, said Annaliese Davis, Hoyer’s spokesperson.

Davis said Hoyer believes Congress must establish a bipartisan Select Committee on Gun Violence to study the issue and make legislative recommendations.

“It is simply inexcusable that Republicans in Congress repeatedly fail to take action to address gun violence in our country,” Hoyer said in a statement. “We have a responsibility to enact commonsense legislation to prevent mass shootings, which have become all too common.”

 

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