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Maryland set to become latest state to enact stiff gun-control measure

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley (D-MD) attends a St. Patrick's Day reception at the White House in Washington, March 19, 2013. REUTERS/Jon
Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley (D-MD) attends a St. Patrick's Day reception at the White House in Washington, March 19, 2013. REUTERS/Jon

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Maryland was set to become the latest U.S. state to enact stiff gun control measures, with the approval on Wednesday by the state's House of Delegates of legislation that includes a ban on dozens of assault weapons and limits on magazine size.

The legislation, which had been proposed by Governor Martin O'Malley, was passed by the state Senate last month.

Colorado and New York have already passed new laws on gun control, and the Connecticut legislature was set to vote on Wednesday on what supporters describe as one of the toughest gun measures in the country.

Maryland's Democratic-controlled House voted 78 to 61 to pass the measure, sending it to O'Malley to be signed.

"We're so close to enacting common sense reforms," O'Malley posted on Twitter, moments after the bill's passage.

Maryland lawmakers joined others in seeking to tighten controls on firearms following the December massacre of 20 schoolchildren and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut.

The legislation limits magazine capacity to 10 bullets, requires that gun buyers be fingerprinted and licensed, and places new limits on weapons purchases by the mentally ill.

The legislation also bans more than 40 types of existing assault rifles, including all models of the AR-15. That weapon was used in the Newtown attack, by accused Aurora, Colorado, shooter James Holmes, and by Washington's "Beltway sniper" in 2002.

A House committee pulled from the bill part of O'Malley's proposal that set out physical characteristics used to weigh whether weapons made in the future should be banned as well.

Critics have contended that the removal of that proposal from the bill creates a loophole that could allow future types of weapons to be legal that otherwise would be banned.

The package also allows the purchase of assault weapons after October 1, when the law takes effect, as long as they can prove that the sale was initiated before it took effect.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson, additional reporting by Lacey Johnson; Editing by Scott Malone and Leslie Adler)

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