ANNAPOLIS -- The state Senate's top Republican amended a bill to allow illegal immigrants to obtain Maryland driver's licenses to make sure those licenses couldn't be used to purchase firearms.

Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin, R-Eastern Shore, said his concern arose from the licenses being considered a valid form of identification for all state purposes, including purchasing a firearm.

The licenses would not be valid for federal purposes, such as going through airport security or entering a federal courthouse.

"I think for security purposes the idea that someone who can't prove a physical presence in the state of Maryland, we can't prove exactly who they are ... they have the access to use this to purchase a firearm -- I don't think we want to go that far," Pipkin said.

However, Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Chairman Brian Frosh, D-Montgomery County, said the amendment was unnecessary.

Frosh conceded that the licenses could be used as proof of identity when a Marylander attempted to purchase a firearm, but he said a person in the country illegally would fail the federal background check required of most gun purchases.

"If you cannot prove you're a legal resident, you cannot purchase a firearm," Frosh said.

His amendment -- approved 24-22 -- would add a line onto driver's licenses for illegal immigrants that says, "Cannot be used to purchase a firearm."

- Andy Brownfield