Maryland lawmakers have reached a stalemate in negotiations on a bill that would prohibit individuals from knowingly possessing guns on public college campuses across the state.
The Baltimore Sun reported the deadlock was due to a disagreement of whether to make a violation of the firearms ban a civil or criminal offense.
A conference committee met on Monday to try and hammer out a compromise on the measure, but ultimately failed to do so after a short meeting. The lawmakers reportedly later struck a deal but did not have time to bring it to the General Assembly floor for a final vote.
Democratic Delegate Ben Barnes said the final version of the bill would lower the maximum criminal penalty from three years imprisonment to 18 months, so that violators would not lose their right to own a gun. Prosecutors would now also have to prove individuals knowingly violated the law.
Arguing against making a violation a civil offense, Barnes said such an approach “creates a two-tier system in our gun laws that is completely untenable.”
However, Democratic Sen. James Brochin initially argued he could not support a criminal penalty, due to opposition among his constituents, but later suggested a tiered system in which violators would be criminally punished on a third offense.
Barnes noted Brochin was the key to the negotiations, as the two Republicans on the committee would not budge in their opposition to the measure.
“Jim signs it, it’s done,” Barnes said. “If he doesn’t, it’s dead.”
Brochin later indicated he had agreed to criminal penalties for a second offense.