ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Maryland lawmakers on two panels voted Friday night to advance a gun-control measure that is a top priority of Gov. Martin O'Malley's legislative agenda, making some changes but leaving intact the most significant provisions.
Members of the House Judiciary Committee and the House Health and Government Operations Committee passed the bill after a voting session that lasted all afternoon and into the evening. The vote in each committee was 27-18, reflecting the Democratic majority in both chambers.
The bill now goes to the House of Delegates to consider next week, as the Maryland General Assembly heads toward its scheduled April 8 adjournment.
Democratic lawmakers mostly rejected a variety of proposed changes offered by Republicans. In the end, the panels left intact a requirement for future handgun buyers to submit fingerprints to the state police, a ban on assault weapons and limiting magazine rounds to 10 bullets.
"The fact of the matter is we're going to have a ban on magazines with more than 10 bullets and we have a ban on the future sale of these weapons and we have fingerprint licensing. That is substantial," said Vincent DeMarco, president of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence.
Opponents said the measure cut deep into Second Amendment rights, even with some changes that Republicans succeeded in getting through for gun dealers and manufacturers.
"If someone is hitting you with a baseball bat, do you really care if they're hitting with an aluminum bat or a wooden bat? They're still hitting you with a baseball bat," said Shannon Alford, the Maryland liaison to the National Rifle Association. "It's the difference between an aluminum bat and a wooden bat."
The two committees went to work Friday after the bill had stalled for weeks amid talks about changing part of the measure that bans assault weapons. Some lawmakers had misgivings about banning all of the assault weapons included in the measure approved by the Senate just over a month ago. However, the guns remained in the ban after Friday night's vote.
The measure would allow people who already own the weapons to keep them.
Delegate Luiz Simmons, D-Montgomery, Simmons failed to strip out an amendment allowing people to keep an assault weapon affected by the ban, if they place an order before Oct. 1, 2013.
"This bill, if we continue to allow them to be grandfathered in, will take a generation to have any effect," Simmons said.
The legislation has drawn large numbers of opponents during previous hearings, rallies and votes. Opponents returned again Friday and watched in an overflow room.
O'Malley, a Democrat, proposed the measure in the aftermath of December's massacre at a Newtown, Conn., school, where a gunman killed 20 children and six adults before committing suicide. The bill would make $25 million available for schools to invest in security measures such as locks, cameras and buzzer entrance systems.