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Widow pushes MD lawmakers to close loophole, require background checks for all rifle and shotgun purchases

WUSA-TV Washington, D.C. logo WUSA-TV Washington, D.C. 1/16/2020 Bruce Leshan

Maryland already has some of the strictest gun laws in the country. But, you can still legally buy a rifle or a shotgun from an unlicensed seller, and never go through a background check.

The widow of a victim of gun violence is pushing lawmakers to close what she calls a loophole.

"The Capital Gazette staff can never unsee my husband John looking up at the gun pointed at him, and then falling murdered to the floor," Andrea Chamblee, the widow of sportswriter John McNamara, told state delegates at a public hearing Wednesday.

To legally buy an assault-style rifle or a handgun in Maryland you have to pass a background check. But to buy a rifle or a shotgun from a friend, a fellow hunter, or any private seller, no background check is required.

"I'm not here to save my husband," Chamblee said. "I'm here to save the next person where a dangerous person gets easy access to a long gun to murder his family, or his co-workers, or himself." 

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Critics argue that without a background check, it's easy for convicted felons, domestic abusers and others banned from having guns to get them anyway.

The House committee hearing was standing room only. The vast majority of the people there were wearing red, the color of gun control advocacy groups "Moms Demand Action" and "Everytown for Gun Safety."

But there were also gun rights advocates, like Katie Novotny. 

"Every year, more people are killed with hand and feet, blunt objects, than they are with long guns, rifles and shotguns," Novotny said.

Other gun rights advocates pointed out that the Capital Gazette killer had passed a background check. 

"This bill would have done nothing to prevent the tragedy here in Annapolis," Jesse Ferguson, a shooting enthusiast from the Eastern Shore, said. 

A similar, but tougher, bill went nowhere in last year's session. The previous bill tried to require training, fingerprinting and licensing, while this bill focuses on requiring a background check no matter where you buy a rifle or shotgun.

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RELATED: A year in the life of a Capital Gazette shooting widow

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