A push from Prince George’s Co. for tougher gun laws

WASHINGTON — Local and federal lawmakers representing Maryland gathered in Prince George’s County to put their support behind a bill in the U.S. House aimed at creating tougher handgun purchasing laws across the nation.

“We’ve got to stop guns from coming in, out of state, from these straw purchasers,” said Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker.

The comments were made at Prince George’s County Police Headquarters, not far from where a man opened fire on a police station, sparking a gun battle that killed a county police officer.

Baker, along with Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, backed a bill by current congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Chris Van Hollen.

“The lax laws in these other states is literally putting Maryland lives at risk,” Van Hollen said.

Van Hollen says HR 2732 the Handgun Purchaser Licensing Act would give incentives to states for enacting laws that would require handgun buyers to get a license from law enforcement before they can buy a gun.

Maryland is one of a few states with a law on the books requiring a license to buy a handgun. Supporters claim it has reduced the number of cases where a gun purchased in the state is in turn used during a crime.

Amy Hunter, a spokeswoman with the National Rifle Association, says the bill presumes that legal gun owners are the people trafficking guns.

“This is the kind of law that would only impact people obeying the law,” Hunter said.

Hunter called Van Hollen’s comments during the press conference “political rhetoric” during the congressman’s bid to defeat Democratic challenger Donna Edwards for a U.S. Senate seat in the Maryland primary.

“He and Donna Edwards are trying to out-anti-gun each other,” Hunter said.

Frosh supports the legislation. He said neighboring states don’t require the same kind of rigorous vetting for those who purchase handguns.

Maryland’s licensing process, according to Frosh, has turned away 800 people who applied for permits because they either had a criminal history or have a protective order against them.

Jane Pauliuokonis, with Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, says the process of obtaining a hand gun license helps confirm and prepare someone to be a safe a responsible gun owner.

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