Faith leaders, city lawmakers urge new gun control laws

Several religious leaders joined Baltimore's mayor and state lawmakers Wednesday in urging new state gun control laws, calling for a wide-ranging package of bills designed to prevent tragedies like the shooting in Connecticut.

"The violence is simply too much, the grief is simply too profound," said Rabbi Ron Shulman of Chizuk Amuno Congregation, president of the Baltimore Jewish Council.

State Sen. Brian Frosh, a Montgomery County Democrat who chairs the Judicial Proceedings Committee, said that in the coming General Assembly session, he will push for a ban on assault weapons like the Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle used in last week's massacre.

Other proposed measures would limit magazine rounds to 10 bullets, empower the Maryland State Police to regulate gun stores and prohibit people who spent time in a mental hospital from owning guns for five years. Gun owners would also be barred from taking concealed weapons to places children congregate, such as libraries and day care centers.

The group that gathered to support the proposals included the Rev. Hal T. Ley Hayek, dean of the Episcopal Cathedral of the Incarnation; Imam Earl El-Amin of the Muslim Community Cultural Center of Baltimore; and state Del. Samuel I. "Sandy" Rosenberg, a Baltimore Democrat.

The leaders gathered at the Episcopal Diocesan Center next to the cathedral in North Baltimore, a site of gun control events in the mid-1990s, when Maryland outlawed assault pistols and set a one-gun-a-month limit on firearms purchases.

President Barack Obama said Wednesday that gun control will be a "central issue" as he begins his next term and that he will submit legislation in January.

Maryland lawmakers said they will proceed with their plans regardless of what happens in Washington. "In the event that they do not do what they are supposed to do, then we as the leaders of Maryland are going to do it for them," said Sen. Lisa Gladden, a Baltimore Democrat.

The proposals largely revive legislation that has languished in Annapolis in the past, but which gun control advocates now believe has an unprecedented chance for success.

"We think this could be the year it happens," said Frosh, who is exploring a run for state attorney general in 2014. Del. Jon Cardin of Baltimore County, who is also considering running for attorney general, issued a statement Wednesday saying he will introduce an assault weapons ban in the House of Delegates.

At Wednesday's event, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake drew a direct line between the families of Newtown victims and Baltimore families whose children died in gun violence, saying the grief is the same.

She backed the proposals. Separately Wednesday, she and 11 other Maryland mayors signed a letter with 750 mayors across the country in urging Obama to tighten gun laws and make it easier to prosecute infractions.

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