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Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) offered extensive proposals to curb gun violence Friday, calling the efforts his “top legislative priority.”

The administration’s agenda includes banning assault weapons, imposing strict handgun licensing requirements and strengthening laws that keep guns away from the dangerously mentally ill.

“We believe we can actually reduce violent crime,” O'Malley said Friday. “We can actually save lives.”

O'Malley's agenda includes several interconnected proposals, including:

•A ban on high-capacity, military assault weapons and a reduction in the capacity of magazine clips from 20 rounds to 10;

•Requiring a license for every handgun purchase, with mandatory fingerprinting, safety training and background checks;

•Removing the December 2013 sunset on Maryland’s statewide DNA database, which O’Malley said had put 510 violent criminals behind bars.

•Expanding the restriction on who can own firearms to include not only those who have mental disorders and a history of violence, but also those under guardianship because they cannot care for themselves and those who have been civilly committed if a judge believes they cannot safely possess a gun.

•Requiring registration of guns purchased outside the state, not just those bought in Maryland, and preventing those barred from owning guns from purchasing ammunition.

The proposals drew immediate criticism from Republicans like Del. Michael D. Smigiel Sr. (R-Dist. 36) of Chesapeake City, who said hearing O’Malley’s agenda was like “watching the Second Amendment go down in flames.”

The plan would do nothing “to stop bad guys with guns,” Smigiel said.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Dist. 27) of Chesapeake Beach said that he expected the assault weapons ban to pass the Senate, but that the licensing requirements would be a close vote.

Miller said he had not seen the text of the governor’s bill, but that the stricter criteria raised concerns about Second Amendment protections.  “You have to have a license to drive a car, but the Constitution doesn’t deal with driving a car,” he said.  “If you're licensing something, you have the right to take that license away, so I think these issues have to be discussed."

House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Dist. 30) of Annapolis, appearing at the news conference with the governor, spoke in favor of a ban.

“Nobody wants to take guns away from somebody who owns them legitimately to protect themselves or hunt,” Busch said. “But the question you have to ask yourself is, “What is the need of these high-powered weapons?’”

O’Malley also is proposing measures to increase school safety, including $25 million in school construction money to pay for improvements such as cameras at entrances, buzzer systems on doors and shatterproof glass. He also is calling for the creation of a Maryland Center on School Safety to gather data and disseminate information on best practices, and reviews of best emergency plans for K-12 schools and higher-education facilities.

dleaderman@gazette.net