Not surprisingly, perhaps, President Barack Obama’s proposals this week aimed at reducing gun violence in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting spree were met with support by several Democratic members of Maryland’s congressional delegation and opposition from the lone Republican.
U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D) of Pikesville called Obama’s proposals “common sense, reasonable gun control measures, especially on weapons of war that have no legitimate civilian use.”
Among the measures proposed by Obama were universal background checks for gun buyers, which would close the so-called “gun-show loophole”, a limit on gun magazines to 10 rounds, reinstatement of the assault weapons ban, funding for police departments to hire school resource officers and expansion of mental health services.
“We absolutely should move to ban assault weapons and prohibit high-capacity ammunition clips,” Cardin said, adding that he would co-sponsor the Assault Weapons Regulatory Act of 2013 to reinstate the 1994 ban. “Despite lobbying efforts to the contrary, we can protect our children while still protecting the constitutional rights of legitimate hunters and existing gun owners,” he said.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) of Baltimore did not issue any statements about Obama’s proposals, but she has stated her support for the assault weapons act, spokesman Matt Jorgenson said.
U.S. Rep. Christopher Van Hollen Jr. (D-Dist. 8) of Kensington also agreed with Obama’s proposals.
“Congress must immediately consider the White House’s recommendations for legislative action, including closing loopholes in criminal and mental health background checks for people purchasing guns, banning military-style assault weapons and limiting the size of high-capacity magazines,” Van Hollen said.
Most of Maryland’s congressional delegation is likely to support the president’s proposals, said Matthew A. Crenson, a professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
“Two factors are at play here. One is Maryland is a relatively liberal state, and two is there’s also cities like Baltimore where handgun crimes have been an issue,” Crenson said.
Democrats remember 1994 when the initial assault weapons ban was blamed, whether rightly or not, for their parts being turned out of the House, Crenson said.
Newly elected Rep. John Delaney (D-Dist. 6) of Potomac represents a district that still has a large number of Republicans in Western Maryland who do not like any gun control, Crenson said.
But Delaney supports Obama’s proposals.
“When tragedy strikes and horrifying, unimaginable suffering is wrought upon our nation, as members of Congress, we have a deep obligation to respond,” Delaney said. “This is not about taking guns away from law-abiding citizens, and I believe that it is important to protect the Second Amendment.”
Delaney singled out the prevalence of military-grade assault weapons and high-capacity clips in mass shootings, saying legislation needs to be considered to “help prevent further tragedies.”
The National Rifle Association, which has vowed to fight any gun control measures, issued a statement this week saying the real blame for the deaths was caused by video games, movies and problems in the mental health system.
Rep. Andrew P. Harris (R-Dist. 1) of Cockeysville sided with the NRA’s position.
“We must comprehensively address this issue of gun violence and deal with its root causes — a culture of violence and a broken mental health system,” Harris said. “I look forward to reviewing the details of the president’s legislative package. Any action we take should decrease the probability of these tragedies occurring again and must not infringe upon the right of Americans to responsibly own a gun.”
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Dist. 7) of Baltimore said steps to combat illegal gun trafficking should have broad bipartisan support. Among the proposals mentioned by Obama at his news conference Wednesday was such a bill, which Cummings introduced initially in 2011 with the support of law-enforcement organizations.
“This proposal should be one of the most bipartisan bills Congress considers this year because it is supported by law enforcement and does not affect law-abiding gun owners,” Cummings said. “The administration is doing what it can do, so it is now up to Congress to come together and take serious, meaningful steps to keep our nation’s children safe.”