Gansler has called for better information sharing among local, state and federal agencies. Besides criminal background checks for all nationwide gun purchases, he said, Maryland State Police need access to someone's out-of-state mental health records.

"Law enforcement depends on good information and good information flow," he said. "The state police need to have good information about individuals who are seeking a permit."

He, too, would like to stop straw purchasers and believes that fingerprinting requirements, matching a person to the gun he or she purchased, would help stop people from buying guns for others. O'Malley has proposed such a measure.

While O'Malley agreed with state law officers and national experts who say banning assault-type rifles and other weapons would have a minimal impact on Baltimore crime, he said it's just common sense to restrict them.

"I don't see any legitimate reason why any citizen needs to have an assault weapon," the governor said.

Baltimore police say they do not have data on how many violent crimes are carried out using assault-type weapons but that they seized 23 firearms that would qualify as "assault" weapons in 2012. Police seize about 2,000 guns a year.

Maryland restricts the sale of some magazines that go into assault-type weapons, but some continue to buy illegal clips.

On Jan. 11, Baltimore County police detectives charged two men at the Gun and Knife Show at the Timonium Fairgrounds with selling illegal 30-round magazines for a .223-caliber AR-15 rifle. Officers said they seized more than 120 illegal magazines from the vendors.

"It is critical to have effective laws regarding high-capacity magazines," Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson said in a statement. He chairs the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence. "The laws are in place to protect public safety, and violations such as this endanger the community."

Though there are many ways to get a gun in Maryland, Vince said ATF investigators learned that the easiest way for criminals to get them is through legitimate gun dealers. Even criminals want new guns that cannot be traced to past crimes.

"The bad guys told us in our interviews that they really don't want to buy a gun from somebody off the streets — they're worried it might have a body attached to it," he said. "Criminals are no different than any other type of customer. If you want a hamburger, you go to McDonald's or Burger King. And you go to a gun store when you want a specific type of gun."

jgeorge@baltsun.com

jfenton@baltsun.com

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