MARYLAND

Gun control hearing draws big crowd to Annapolis

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP/ABC7) - Thousands gathered to express opposition to Gov. Martin O'Malley's gun-control measure Wednesday.

The large crowd filled Lawyer's Mall in Annapolis. Outside the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee hearing room the overflow crowd zigzagged around the lobby, down the stairs, down the lower hallway and out of the building.

Thousands of people, almost all opposed the new gun control measure.

Lou Levy of Parkton says he disagrees with changing gun laws instead of focusing on the people who commit crimes.

David Greer added, "It's like all our other rights the government has no ability to take it away unless the people give it up."

O'Malley, a Democrat, testified before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, telling senators that the Conn. shooting should convince everyone that something needs to be done.

Quoting the Second Amendment at the top of their lungs, thousands of gun rights advocates tallied through the afternoon. The target of their ire is a gun control package proposed by the governor.

O'Malley wants to ban assault weapons and create stricter licensing requirements for handguns.

The measure also includes provisions to improve the state's mental health services as a way to prevent violence. It would also set aside money in the state's capital schools budget for school safety.

Prince George's County Police Chief Mark Magaw, who was on had to testify, agrees with O'Malley.

"We see too much devastation from these weapons, assault weapons, high capacity magazines. It's something that needs to be addressed," Magaw said.

The hearing, scheduled to last eight hours is just the start of the legislative process. Already support for the bill, even among Democrats, is eroding. Some are calling its too restrictive.

Republicans and those rallying are pushing bills to address mental health issues and school security, leaving guns alone.

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