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Maryland gun limits among strictest

| Thursday, May 16, 2013, 8:18 p.m.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley on Thursday signed a gun control bill that is among the country's most sweeping legislative responses to the December mass shooting in Newtown, Conn.

The law bans the sale of assault-style rifles, including the AR-15 used in the Newtown killing of six educators and 20 first- and second-graders. The law limits gun ownership for people with mental illness, outlaws the sale of high-capacity magazines and establishes the nation's first new handgun licensing plan in two decades.

Maryland will join five other states in requiring such licenses, a move O'Malley said “will substantially lower gun deaths.”

The signing is expected to set off both a legal challenge from the National Rifle Association and a public relations campaign from gun control supporters. A petition drive is under way to stop the law from going into effect on Oct. 1, though it is unclear whether opponents can gather enough signatures in time for an automatic hold on the bill. If they are, the law would go before voters in 2014.

O'Malley, a two-term Democrat, called the gun bill his top priority in what lawmakers described as the most productive legislative season in recent memory.

The gun bill is among about 250 other pieces of legislation signed by the governor on Thursday, the final bill signing ceremony since the 2013 General Assembly session that adjourned on April 8.

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