Maryland’s Republican governor just delivered a stunning blow to the NRA

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Maybe Maryland’s Republican Governor Larry Hogan has suddenly changed his views on the passage of sensible gun laws because of the #NeverAgain movement started by students from Parkland, Florida; or maybe he sees it as the smart move to win re-election this fall in a tough gubernatorial race.

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Today, despite constant pressure from the gun lobby, Hogan signed a number of bills into law designed to prevent gun violence. 

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At a ceremony with legislative leaders and gun control advocates behind him, Hogan signed a bill that takes guns away from people who pose a danger to themselves or others. 

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After years of opposition, Hogan also signed a “red flag” law that allows families and law enforcement to petition a court for an order to take guns away, at least temporarily, from people found to be a risk to themselves or the community.

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Furthermore, he signed laws to ban bump stocks, which enable a gun to act as a semi-automatic rifle, like the Las Vegas shooter used when he killed 58 people and injured more than 800 others.

Hogan also signed a bill that closed a loophole in current law to require convicted domestic abusers to surrender their guns to the police or a firearms dealer, as well as  bills that eliminate parole eligibility for repeat violent offenders and increases sentences for anyone who commits a crime with a firearm.

In a state where gun violence has been epidemic, these new laws might seem like common sense but with Hogan as governor, it is a surprising turn of events. 

It was not long ago that Hogan, only the second Republican governor elected in Maryland in the last 50 years, earned an A-rating from the National Rifle Association, was opposed the assault weapons ban passed by Maryland Democrats in 2013 in the wake of Sandy Hook; promising to make it easier to buy guns; and ridiculing Democratic efforts to keep people on the terrorist watch list from being able to buy guns. 

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A self-described “gun enthusiast,” when Hogan was running as an underdog in 2014, he was caught making secret promises that he would be a friend to gun owners.

“Several advocates said Hogan has pledged to install a state police superintendent more sympathetic to gun owners,” the Washington Post reported in October 2014, “and make it easier to obtain permits to carry concealed weapons, as well as to take other steps that don’t require the consent of the Democratic-led legislature.”

So what explains Hogan’s reversal on gun legislation? His political opponents charge that it is just opportunism in a state where Democrats have a two-to-one lead in voter registration.

Maryland state Senator Richard Maldelno, a leading advocate for gun laws in the state Assembly who is also running for governor this fall, charged that “Governor Hogan is once again jumping on a train that’s already leaving the station, as he has done on any number of Democratic proposals… It’s no wonder that his critics see his embrace of an issue that’s extremely popular with Maryland voters as cynical election-year positioning.”

Whether or not it is out of fear of a blue wave come November, it is important to note that strong sensible gun reforms have passed in Maryland, and that needs to happen in a lot more states.

Benjamin Locke

Benjamin Locke is a retired college professor with an undergraduate degree in Industrial Labor and Relations from Cornell University and an MBA from the European School of Management.

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