Tragedy in Newtown

The governor's gun legislation was the direct outgrowth of tragic news from outside the state — the December massacre of 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary by a mentally troubled man armed with an assault-style rifle and equipped with high-capacity magazines.

O'Malley responded by drafting legislation that would bar sales of guns classified as assault weapons as well as magazines that hold more than 10 bullets. The legislation also called for licensing and fingerprinting of handgun purchasers, along with a requirement that some undergo training. Other sections of the bill sought to make it more difficult for seriously mentally ill people to acquire guns.

The proposal met a fierce response from gun-rights advocates, who flooded hearing rooms and mounted some of the largest demonstrations seen in Annapolis in many years. They argued that gun control does not work and infringes upon Second Amendment rights.

The debate in Maryland took place as President Barack Obama was finding little success as he called on Congress to enact similar proposals on the national level. Maryland lawmakers amended O'Malley's bill but left the key provisions intact.

The political climate had changed enough since Newtown that the bill won the support of Miller, a moderate-to-conservative Democrat who owns a gun collection.

"I personally didn't like it, but I voted for it, for society and for the state of Maryland," Miller said.

Other O'Malley proposals that have won passage this session laid the groundwork for more public-private partnerships, allow state subsidies to encourage development of an offshore wind power plant and create the rules and infrastructure to implement Obama's Affordable Care Act.

Last week, as it became clear that his agenda was headed for approval, O'Malley felt comfortable enough to joke about it.

"It's an outrage," he said. "We wanted more."

michael.dresser@baltsun.com

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