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A proposal to require background checks on private sales of rifles and shotguns cleared a hurdle Friday in the General Assembly. The Judicial Proceedings Committee voted 8-3 to advance a version of the bill to the Senate, shown in this Jan. 9, 2019, file photo, for consideration.
A proposal to require background checks on private sales of rifles and shotguns cleared a hurdle Friday in the General Assembly. The Judicial Proceedings Committee voted 8-3 to advance a version of the bill to the Senate, shown in this Jan. 9, 2019, file photo, for consideration. (Dylan Slagle / BSMG)

A proposal to require background checks on private sales of rifles and shotguns cleared a key hurdle Friday in the Maryland General Assembly.

The Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee voted 8-3 to advance a version of the bill to the Senate for consideration.

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The House of Delegates already approved a different version of the bill on a 90-49 vote. So, if the Senate passes its version, the differences would have to be worked out before the measure could go to Gov. Larry Hogan for consideration.

Sen. Susan Lee, sponsor of the Senate version, called it “a good first step” toward making sure that people who are prohibited from having guns can’t buy them.

“Those who can’t have guns should not have them. A background check would reveal that,” she said.

Under Maryland law, background checks are required for sales of long guns by licensed firearms dealers. But they are not required for private sales — which gun control advocates consider a loophole.

The bill would require that in a private sale, the seller and buyer would have to go to a licensed dealer to undergo a background check on the buyer through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

The Maryland House of Delegates gave final approval Monday to bills that would ban 3D printed guns and require background checks for all sales of long guns, such as shotguns and rifles.

The version of the bill that is advancing in the Senate does not require the background checks for loans and gifts of long guns.

“At the very least, it will require anyone who purchases a gun in that category to get a background check,” said Lee, a Montgomery County Democrat.

The Senate version of the bill also prohibits anyone from knowingly giving or selling a gun to someone who is barred from owning one, such as someone with certain criminal convictions, or if they believe the recipient might use the gun to commit a crime or harm themselves or others. That would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Opponents of the bill say it would create a cumbersome requirement for purchasers, who are largely law-abiding citizens. And they argue that few murders are committed with rifles or shotguns.

Officials have said that the man who has been charged bought the gun legally.

But gun control advocates point to the case as evidence that long guns can be used to carry out violent crimes, such as mass shootings.

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