By Bruce DePuyt
The House remained a step ahead of the Senate when it came to enacting new gun control legislation, passing its version of a bill to ban “bump stocks” on Thursday night by a 128-7 vote.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) has appeared perturbed about the pace of the legislation in his chamber, asking about the progress of the bill from the rostrum on at least a few occasions. The bill is finally headed to the full Senate.
One day after the Senate president took the unusual step of publicly badgering one of his committee chairmen to get the measure moving, the Judicial Proceedings Committee gave Senate Bill 707 its stamp of approval on a 7-2 vote late Wednesday.
Sens. Michael J. Hough (R-Frederick) and Justin D. Ready (R-Carroll) were the two “no” votes.
Bump stocks are devices that enable a gun to fire like an automatic weapon. They were used by the gunman responsible for the massacre at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas, a shooting spree that left 60 people dead, the worst single incident of gun violence in U.S. history.
A measure banning anyone in Maryland from buying, selling or possessing a bump stock, referred to in the legislation as a “rapid fire trigger activator” now seems close to final passage.
The bill is one of several measures being pushed by legislative leaders in Maryland in the wake of the shooting rampage at a Florida high school and other acts of carnage.
At the very end of Tuesday’s floor session, with chairmen making routine committee announcements, Miller (D-Calvert) seemed to express irritation that the bump stocks bill wasn’t moving more quickly.
“Can we get bump stocks voted on? Bump stocks. Can we get that voted on?” Miller said, looking down at Judicial Proceedings Chairman Robert A. Zirkin (D-Baltimore County). It was an unusually public prodding for a presiding officer more likely to summon a legislator to the rostrum for a private consultation.
Asked Thursday about his comments by Maryland Matters, Miller said, “It’s important to move it forward. Crime bills are very important. But at the same time, issues of gun control are very important.”
“We have a red flag [gun-owners exhibiting signs of mental distress] bill — we need to find out where that is. We have a bill to take guns away from people with domestic violence — we need to know where that is. The bump stock bill — we need to know where that is. We’ve got three weeks left in the session and I want big bills moved to the floor. That’s it.”
Zirkin said he appreciated Miller’s passion for the measures on JPR’s docket. “It was fine,” he said of the prodding. “We talked about it afterward.”
Zirkin said that the measure’s chief sponsor, Sen. Victor R. Ramirez (D-Prince George’s), needed to draft an amendment to the bill, causing a brief delay.
Miller “used to chair the Judicial Proceedings Committee. And he’s a lawyer. So, he knows our material and he cares about the material in our committee, which I appreciate.”