Maryland is fourth US state to pass gun control legislation

(Photo: ENS / Mary Frances Schjonberg)Episcopal Diocese of Washington Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde recites prayers at the first Way of the Cross station March 25 in Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C. Diocese of Connecticut Bishop Suffragan James Curry, left, and Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas listen at their march against violence.

The Maryland House of Delegates has passed one of the most restrictive gun control bills in the country.

Passed by a 78 to 61 margin, the state House voted Wedenesday to require fingerprints for all future gun purchasers, a ban on assault weapons, a limitation on magazine rounds and new limits for the mentally ill's access.

The vote marks a major victory for Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat keen on seeing Maryland join the ranks of New York, Colorado and Connecticut, by passing gun control legislation after the Newtown massacre in December.

In that movement among states, Conn. Governor Dannel P. Malloy signed his state's own restrictive gun legislation into law Thursday afternoon.

The law, which also requires extensive background checks and a ban on high capacity ammunition magazines, is in reaction to the gunman who slaughtered 20 children and six adults in the state's Sandy Hook Elementary School in December.

"We think it's fantastic," said James Winkler, Chair of Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence. "I hope that members of Congress will get the message. What's happening isn't a fluke, it's a desire people have of seeing this matter come under control."

Stiil, the passage of these measures in Democraticall-leaning and controlled states contrasts strongly with the national debate.

Despite President Barack Obama saying in aftermath of Sandy Hook that he would "use whatever power this office holds" to pass serious gun control legislation, he has been continually delayed by a slow-moving U.S. Congress and firearm special interests, such as the National Rifle Association.

After initially strong support for new gun legislation, public interest has waned in the four months since the murder of children in Newtown.

A CBS News survey found that support for stricter gun control has dropped from 57 percent to 47 percent since Sandy Hook.

 CNN is likewise reporting a drop from 52 percent to 43 percent. Numbers like these may have contributed in the Democratic leadership of the U.S. Senate deciding not to include a ban on assault weapons in the gun control legislation announced last month.

The president is still pushing to raise public awareness on the issue again with his visit to Colorado Wednesday.

"If these reforms can keep one person from murdering dozens of innocent children, isn't it worth fighting for?" Obama asked a crowd at the Denver Police Academy.

The president praised Colorado for its success in passing gun control legislation and asked supporters to call their local representatives to help pass federal restrictions.

The Maryland bill is headed to the state Senate, which passed a version of the bill last month. The Washington Post is reporting that the state Senate's staffers are sure that the House version will pass the Senate and shortly head on to O'Malley's desk.

If passed, the law will require all future gun buyers to undergo training in target practice, classroom education on gun control, background checks and fingerprint documentation for an ID card.

Maryland will become the first state in almost 20 years to pass a licensing requirement for gun owners.

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