A Damascus-based group has launched a petition drive to take Maryland’s new gun-control law to referendum, undeterred by a larger organization’s decision to stay on the sidelines.
Free State Petitions, led by Montgomery County resident Sue Payne, is collecting signatures to put the measure before voters in 2014. If the group succeeds in putting the law on the ballot, the effective date of the new law — which Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) is expected to sign next week — will be delayed until after the 2014 election.
Payne told The Gazette last week that she believed Marylanders would care more about the gun law — and therefore be more likely to repeal it — than they did about the 2012 ballot issues, which included same-sex marriage and the Maryland Dream Act. Voters upheld those measures in November.
The organization that backed the 2012 petition efforts, MDPetitions.com, announced in April that it would not petition the gun law to referendum, despite opposing the law. Instead, Del. Neil C. Parrott (R-Dist. 2B) of Hagerstown, who chairs the organization, said gun-rights advocates would support a legal challenge to the new law expected to be filed by the National Rifle Association.
Payne said that decision angered her.
“So one person in the state of Maryland pretty much made the decision [not to go forward],” Payne said. Free State Petitions, however, will put together “a people’s petition,” she said.
The new law, supported by O’Malley and passed by lawmakers earlier this year, requires background checks, fingerprinting and a licensing fee for everyone purchasing regulated firearms — a category that includes handguns but not shotguns or hunting rifles. The law also bans about 40 different guns labeled as “assault weapons” and magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition and contains provisions preventing those with a history of mental illness from buying guns.
Payne said the law was an affront to citizen’s constitutional rights.
“Today it might be the Second Amendment. Tomorrow it might be the First Amendment,” she said.
Recent polling data has shown that more than 80 percent of Marylanders support the provisions in the bill, including fingerprinting and licensing.
Free State Petitions must collect 55,736 valid signatures to place the measure before voters. The first batch of 18,579 signatures is due May 31, with the balance due June 31.
Parrott announced Friday that MDPetitions.com will spearhead a referendum effort to overturn the law repealing Maryland’ death penalty, which O’Malley signed last week.