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Maryland's Assault Weapon Fight Sees Renewed Effort

Maryland's assault weapons ban challenge has been revived after the Orlando massacre. (iStockphoto/Ultra1s)
Maryland's assault weapons ban challenge has been revived after the Orlando massacre. (iStockphoto/Ultra1s)
June 16, 2016

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - The massive shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando that left 49 dead has renewed efforts in Maryland to keep the state's assault weapons ban in place.
The state's landmark Firearms Safety Act of 2013 is currently being challenged in court. Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh is speaking out after the Orlando nightclub massacre, vowing to fight it. He said there's no reason American citizens need assault weapons unless they're in the military.

"We need to stand together as a nation to end the epidemic of gun violence," he said. "As President Obama has said, our thoughts and prayers alone are no longer enough."

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled the semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity magazines banned by Maryland's Firearm Safety Act "are in common use by law-abiding citizens" and don't fall under the exception to the right to bear arms that applies to "unusual" weapons such as machine guns and hand grenades. The National Rifle Association has applauded that decision, but Frosh vows to fight to keep the ban in place.

Patrick Paschall, executive director of Freestate Maryland and Equality Maryland, said now is the time to stand together to show solidarity, and it's all about love, not hate.

"We encourage our community to be in community with each other and mourn together," he said. "There's strength in numbers and there is an opportunity to share the grief at a large number of vigils that are continuing to be scheduled across the state."

Paschall said it's also the time to demand that lawmakers make changes so everyone feels safe to live in this country, regardless of how they choose to live.

Frosh said Congress needs to act.

"Every time there is a mass murder, I think the pressure builds," he added. "I think the folks in Congress who stand in the way of this kind of legislation will hear from their constituents. They're sick and tired of reading about this stuff and seeing it on television."

Police say the gunman, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, carried an assault rifle and a pistol into the club early Sunday and killed 49 and wounded 53. It's now the deadliest mass shooting in the United States.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MD