(WASHINGTON) — The two governors leading the debate on stricter gun laws — New York’s Andrew Cuomo and Maryland’s Martin O’Malley — want to enact legislation that would make their respective states the toughest in the country.
Cuomo laid out his legislation in a State of the State address last week and it was passed by the state Senate on Monday, while O’Malley described his plan on Monday at a gun summit at Johns Hopkins University. Both of their plans are bold and expansive.
Cuomo and New York lawmakers struck a deal on Monday to pass the first gun-control measures since the rampage killing at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last month that left 20 first-graders and six educators dead.
The agreement will tighten New York’s loophole-riddled existing ban on so-called assault weapons and, among other things, would limit the capacity of magazines to seven bullets, down from 10. The legislation would also require background checks of ammunition buyers and gun sales, including private ones; tougher penalties for illegal gun use; a one-state check on all firearms purchases; and programs to cut gun violence in high-crime neighborhoods.
New York’s plan will also aim to keep guns from people who are mentally ill. The legislation would empower judges to require people determined to be a threat to others get outpatient care. The plan also requires that when a mental health professional determines a gun owner is likely to hurt himself or others, the risk must be reported and the gun removed by law enforcement.
During a late night press conference on Monday, Cuomo said, “Enough people have lost their lives. Let’s act.”
Like Cuomo’s plan in New York, O’Malley’s proposal in Maryland is expected to pass the state’s Democratic-controlled state legislature.
“There is a sickness in our country. That sickness is gun violence,” O’Malley said Monday at the beginning of a two-day gun violence summit at Johns Hopkins University.
“Perhaps there is no way to completely prevent the next Newtown tragedy. But then again, perhaps there is. None of us can predict the future. … And, yet, we know every life is valuable,” he said.
O’Malley added that his plan “isn’t about ideology.” Instead, it’s “about the dignity of every individual life. The dignity of every one of those little kids.”
The former Baltimore mayor’s plan would ban military-style “assault weapons,” which, he said, “have no place on the streets of Baltimore or in any other neighborhood in our state.”
It would also limit the size of magazines and, among the tougher proposals, would include a requirement for most prospective gun buyers to provide fingerprints to state police, undergo a background check and complete a mandatory gun-safety course in order to obtain an owner’s permit.
Buyers of shotguns and hunting rifles would be exempt from the measure. Currently, only Maryland residents seeking a concealed-carry permit must submit their fingerprints.
As with New York’s plan, it would also address mental health. And O’Malley’s plan calls for data-sharing, investments in treatment and the creation of a treatment program called the Center for Excellence on Early Intervention for Serious Mental Illness to “utilize more effective early intervention strategies.”
Also, like Cuomo’s plan, O’Malley did not embrace the National Rifle Association’s call for armed guards outside of every school, but he did say he wanted to create a new Maryland Center for School Safety that would bring together both law enforcement and school officials.
It is a $25 million project to improve school safety in the form of auto-locking doors and mandatory guest check-in requirements, among others proposals.
In his address, Cuomo noted that he is a gun owner himself and his proposal “is not taking away people’s guns.”
In Baltimore Monday, the Maryland governor also said his goal was not “to ban all guns.”
“At the same time, we know that it makes no sense to blame everything but guns for the violence in our neighborhoods,” O’Malley said.
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