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Martin O'Malley proposes executive actions on gun control

Martin O'Malley proposes executive actions on gun control
Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley, front, speaks with survivors of gun violence victims on the campus of the University of Colorado before the Republican presidential debate Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Boulder, Colo. (David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

Gov. Martin O'Malley said his administration would stop defending a controversial, decade-old law that grants legal immunity to gun manufacturers whose weapons are used in crimes, one of several executive actions his campaign is expected to discuss on Tuesday.

Speaking at a town hall in New Hampshire, O'Malley will vow to act unilaterally on seven gun measures, such as imposing new rules on gun manufacturers by leveraging federal procurement rules and closing "broad exemptions" to the ban on armor-piercing ammunition.

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"While working toward a comprehensive legislative solution, Governor O'Malley will also use the full extent of his executive authority to prevent gun violence," an O'Malley campaign memo read.

The 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which grants broad immunity to gun manufacturers when their products are used illegally, has become a rallying cry for Democrats. The White House has limited authority to address its enforcement, but O'Malley said his administration would choose not to defend the law against constitutional claims.

"O'Malley will not intervene on behalf of the gun industry immunity law as president. Instead, he will argue that the immunity law is unconstitutional," according to the campaign memo.

O'Malley has previously said he would work to overturn the law in Congress, a position that is consistent with that of front runner Hillary Clinton. The former senator from New York voted against the legislation in 2005. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders supported it.

The two-term Maryland governor and former Baltimore mayor has tried to draw a contrast between his own record on the issue and those of Clinton and Sanders. He was the first candidate for the Democratic nomination to outline specific proposals for addressing gun violence, and he has repeatedly touted those ideas at events.

In September, O'Malley called for raising the age for handgun possession to 21, and he has promised to push for more expansive background checks and a national ban on assault weapons.

He reiterated some of those ideas in his latest plan, such as requiring gun manufacturers that want to sell weapons to the federal government to include hidden, hard-to-deface serial numbers on all of their products. He also repeated a call to remove regulation loopholes from a ban on armor-piercing ammunition.

Asked during the first Democratic debate last month which enemy he was most proud of, O'Malley was quick to name the National Rifle Association.

O'Malley gained national attention in 2013 for successfully pushing a sweeping package of gun laws through Annapolis in response to the shooting at Newtown, Conn. The measure banned the sale of assault-style rifles and created a new fingerprinting and licensing system for gun purchases in the state.

Critics note that Baltimore in particular continues to struggle with illegal guns even though the state has passed some of the strictest rules in the nation.

Clinton said in early October that she would be willing to use executive action on a limited basis. Clinton has said she would require dealers selling a significant number of weapons to be considered "in the business" of selling guns, a designation that would require background checks for those sellers.

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