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Maryland governor seeks gun owners’ fingerprints

WASHINGTON — Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley will seek to institute some of the nation’s strictest gun-licensing requirements, ban assault weapons, and restrict visitor access to schools in one of the most expansive government responses sought to last month’s school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Perhaps most controversially, O’Malley will ask the General Assembly to force prospective gun owners to provide fingerprints to state police, complete a hands-on weapon-familiarization and gun-safety course, and undergo a background check to be licensed.

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And the governor is seeking new measures to keep guns out of the hands of those with mental illness who show violent tendencies.

The coming gun-control debate in Annapolis, where Democrats reign, will contrast starkly with the discussion in Washington and the contortions that will be needed to get any gun-control legislation through a divided Congress.

O’Malley’s plan, which administration officials described Sunday, positions him among a cadre of Democratic governors, including New York’s Andrew Cuomo, seeking aggressive gun-control legislation in state capitals. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to provide the details, which have not been previously disclosed.

Responding to O’Malley’s emerging plan Sunday, Maryland Republicans said the gun-control measures appeared ill-suited to prevent another Newtown and seemed more tailored to the governor’s political goals.

‘‘This looks like crass opportunism from politicians who want gun control,’’ said House Minority Leader Anthony O’Donnell.

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