- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
As a marathon eight-hour hearing on Gov. Martin O’Malley’s proposal to implement stricter gun control measures was coming to a close in Annapolis, Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler found himself the subject of an impromptu inquisition on the same subject Wednesday evening during a an appearance before the Waldorf Lions Club.
The visit began innocuously enough, with the attorney general taking the podium following his introduction from former Charles County State’s Attorney Leonard C. Collins Jr., only to have the roughly 30 club members in attendance insist that Gansler (D) first finish his steak dinner.
Done with his beef filet, Gansler briefly filled the club in on his office’s current initiatives before opening the room to questions.
Describing himself as a “pro-business, moderate, centrist Democrat,” Gansler, who is planning a run for governor in 2016, voiced support for improving the “anti-business attitudes we have in Maryland, both in reality and perception” by lowering the state’s corporate income tax rate from 8.25 percent to Virginia’s rate of 6 percent.
”I live in Bethesda, and we’re getting our clocks cleaned from Virginia because every time a company wants to come here, they ought to come here,” Gansler said. “It’s a great place to live. We care about the [Chesapeake] Bay. We care about our environment, but what we’re doing is we’re taxing everybody so much that everybody who’s successful wants to leave.”
Bud Humbert, president-elect of the Southern Maryland Association of Realtors and a former state delegate candidate, asked Gansler why the state couldn’t get rid of personal and corporate income taxes entirely and institute a higher sales tax.
“Well, that’s not going to happen,” Gansler said. “I think that would be hard to pass in our state, and I also think there should be some taxes. We need to have roads; we need to have libraries; we need to have police.”
Gansler then offered a quick endorsement for relocating the FBI’s headquarters in Maryland before one of the club’s members asked him about gun control.
“My stance on gun control is, I think, probably not shared by everybody in this room, but I think it’s pretty much where most people are, which is” people should be able to have a gun in their home for personal protection, “but I don’t think you should be able to walk down the street out here loaded up with AK-47s and bazookas,” Gansler said.
Gansler, who hosted a forum on gun violence Monday in Baltimore, expressed fascination with how polarizing the gun control debate has become considering that most people are already fine with having some limits placed on the weapons that they can own.
“You don’t hear a guy [say], ‘Boy, do I wish I could get a flamethrower or a grenade or a tank to drive down the street,’ and we’re OK with not being able to do that,” he said. “I think we should be OK not having AK-47s in our house.”
One club member who said he has been a shooting instructor for Boy Scouts, ROTC and 4-H clubs for 40 years said O’Malley’s bill contains myriad provisions that seem to ban certain firearms or variations for arbitrary reasons that have nothing to do with safety.
“I think most of us in this room would seriously agree with the idea that folks with mental health problems shouldn’t be carrying weapons, but there are parts of this, and most of us have read [O’Malley’s bill], we’re tearing it apart thinking about it, and there’s just some things we don’t understand,” club member Wayne Magoon said.
Gansler began to explain that he wasn’t familiar with the specifics of the governor’s bill or the differences between particular firearm models, but Humbert interjected.
”Uncle Doug, you don’t get to get away with that in this room,” Humbert said. “You can answer their questions.”
“I’m not going to make up answers about things I don’t know about,” Gansler said, adding that he believed there was “room for a discussion” on reducing gun violence, such as limiting criminals’ ability to acquire guns via straw purchases.
“There is a public interest in not having criminals walking around with guns [and] shooting people,” he said. “We have 550 people murdered a year in Maryland, and there’s a public interest in not having that happen, and the question is, ‘how can you make those people safe without infringing upon gun rights?’”
Gansler fielded more questions on gun control, job growth, taxation and the proliferation of gang violence.
He got some applause when he reinforced his support for the death penalty.
“I think there are certain people who commit certain crimes that they forfeit their right to live on our planet,” he said.
Gansler’s office is currently helping administer the disbursement of $960 million in mortgage relief — won a year ago as part of a nationwide $25 billion settlement with the country’s five largest mortgage lenders — to distressed homeowners.
His office also recently filed an antitrust lawsuit on behalf of the University of Maryland in relation to its plan to switch athletic conferences, and is set to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court this month that law enforcement officers should be able to collect suspects’ DNA at the time of their arrest and have it entered into a national database.
As president of the National Association of Attorneys General, Gansler also is leading a national initiative to boost digital privacy.
His office also is looking into suing a fish oil producer in Virginia for overharvesting the Chesapeake Bay’s menhaden population.