Baltimore Sun

Democrats want Hogan to impose limit on gun sales

Keep weapons from people on terrorism watch lists, they say

- By John Fritze and Erin Cox

Picking up on a debate that began with the current presidenti­al campaign, a group of Maryland Democrats pressed Gov. Larry Hogan on Friday to ban people on federal terrorist watch lists from purchasing weapons.

Four Democratic state lawmakers and a Montgomery County congressma­n who is running for the Senate called on Maryland to adopt a ban similar to the one Gov. Dan Malloy, a Democrat, announced this week that he will implement in Connecticu­t.

Democrats have cast the measure as a response to the recent gun attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., though neither of the shooters involved in the California killings was on federal watch lists. Democrats have been pressing Republican­s on the issue nationally since several GOP candidates for president refused to endorse the idea.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen wrote in a letter to Hogan that “Tea Party obstructio­nism and the NRA” have blocked efforts to pass federal legislatio­n. Instead, Van Hollen wrote, Hogan should “explore every possible state action to prevent dangerous individual­s from purchasing guns in Maryland.”

Hogan dismissed Van Hollen’s letter as “politics” and “silly.”

“It’s not an issue in Maryland,” he said. “No one on any watch list has ever received a gun.”

Maryland already performs comprehens­ive gun background checks that flag applicants on federal watch lists, Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer said. The Maryland State Police, which performs those checks, then contacts the FBI to discuss the reasons someone is on a list.

Mayer said no one on a list has been approved to buy a firearm.

Van Hollen, a former state lawmaker, is running against Rep. Donna F. Edwards for the seat that will be left vacant by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski in 2017. Van Hollen and Edwards have both emphasized their record promoting gun control in their campaigns.

The state lawmakers who joined Van Hollen, including state Sen. Jamie Raskin of Montgomery County and Del. Luke Clippinger of Baltimore, said they are drafting legislatio­n that would expressly prohibit people on watch lists from getting a gun permit. They plan to introduce the bill to be considered in the General Assembly session that begins in January.

“If law enforcemen­t officials believe someone is enough of a threat to be on a terrorism watch list, that person should not be allowed to buy the guns that can be used to turn that threat into a tragedy,” said Clippinger, who works as a prosecutor. “That’s just common sense.” State Sen. Jim Rosapepe of Prince George’s County and Del. David Moon of Montgomery County are also working on the bill. Raskin is running for Congress in the state’s 8th Congressio­nal District.

“If we wouldn’t let them board a plane at BWI, why would we let them purchase a gun in our state?” Raskin said.

“We obviously can’t stop every gun massacre in America, but we can at least stop suspected terrorists from purchasing firearms in our own community. I know Congress is deadlocked on it, but that makes it essential for us to act in Maryland as soon as we get back to Annapolis,” he said.

Maryland State Police spokesman Greg Shipley said the department’s licensing division has never come across a gun buyer who was on a federal watch list, but that it would show up during the background check.

Shipley said that if a permit applicant showed up on a list, the state agency would contact the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.

“We have no intention of knowingly permitting a potential terrorist to purchase a firearm,” he said. The bill would make that policy law, supporters said. Malloy said this week he will sign an executive order prohibitin­g people on terrorism watch lists from buying firearms. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is now running for the GOP presidenti­al nomination, signed a similar law in 2013.

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