- Associated Press - Saturday, July 21, 2018

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Students from a Maryland school where a girl was killed in a shooting and a reporter from the Capital-Gazette newspaper where five people were shot to death last month held a rally on Saturday to urge lawmakers to approve stronger measures to protect people from gun violence.

Sen. Will Smith told dozens of people who gathered in heavy rain outside the Maryland State House that he plans to propose a resolution in January when the state’s next legislative session begins to try to replicate a four-state coalition in the northeast, where New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Rhode Island agree to share registries of people who are prohibited from owning firearms in individual states. Smith’s proposal would attempt to make a similar coalition between Maryland and neighboring states.

“Moving forward, it’s going to take all of us here in Maryland to start a national dialogue and to create a national model to change gun safety laws, not only here in our state but across the nation,” Smith, a Montgomery County Democrat said.

Maryland already has some of the nation’s toughest gun laws, including a sweeping gun-control measure approved in 2013 that banned assault weapons and has withstood court challenges. Smith said the porous nature of borders means states need to work in tandem to fight gun violence.

Lawmakers approved several gun-control laws this year. One of them, known as a red flag law, enables families and law enforcement to ask courts for an order to temporarily restrict firearms access to people found to be a risk to themselves or others. Some lawmakers already are talking about strengthening the law to enable a wider scope of people to seek court action. The Maryland law, which takes effect Oct. 1, only allows police, medical professionals, close relatives or dating partners to seek a court order.

Jaxon O’Mara, who will be a senior at Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County, helped organize the rally. In March, Great Mills student Jaelynn Willey was fatally shot by a classmate at the school.

“I came out because I don’t want any other community to go through what my community went through.” O’Mara said.

Selene San Felice, a reporter at The Capital who survived the June 28 attack on the newspaper, spoke of how difficult it has been to grieve for her five colleagues and the need for stronger laws.

“This was the deadliest attack on journalists in America, and we need a government that stands up for us,” she said.

Ben Jealous, a former NAACP president who is running for governor, met with students and attended the rally.

“What we need to do is put more mental health professionals in our schools, and I’ve been pushing for that for a long time, and as governor I’ll make sure that it gets done,” Jealous, a Democrat, said.

Gov. Larry Hogan, who was attending the National Governors Association meeting in New Mexico this weekend, met with students from Great Mills on Thursday. Hogan, a Republican, wrote in an op-ed published by The Baltimore Sun on Saturday that he supports better information sharing between the courts, law enforcement and probation.

“Maryland already has the toughest gun laws in the country, but it is clear to me that an effective, nationwide, universal background check system to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill is a tool police need to stop more shooters,” Hogan wrote.

Hogan signed the red flag measure into law in April. He also signed a bill to ban bump stocks, which can increase a semi-automatic rifle’s firing rate.

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