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Md. Democratic candidates Ulman, Frosh vow to enforce state’s strict gun laws


Howard County Executive Ken Ulman (D) listened in horror last winter as police described a disgruntled 19-year-old purchasing a shotgun at a store in Rockville and plotting a rampage at the Mall in Columbia.

All he could think of, Ulman told an audience of gun-control advocates Wednesday, was how much worse the situation would have been had the shooter, Darion Marcus Aguilar, been able to obtain an assault weapon.

He could not because of Maryland’s 2013 Firearm Safety Act, a landmark law that took effect one year ago Wednesday and, among other things, banned assault weapons and the sale of high-capacity magazines.

“No one event has affected me more,” said Ulman, who has been county executive for eight years and is running for lieutenant governor on the same ticket as Democratic gubernatorial nominee Anthony G. Brown.

“It’s not enough for candidates to say they support” the gun law, Ulman said at an event organized by Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence and the NAACP to mark the one-year anniversary of its enactment. “We will make sure it is enforced.”

The law has been upheld in court challenges so far, but an appeal is pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. Advocates on both sides have said they are willing to pursue the case all the way to the Supreme Court.

The legal battle has become a central issue in the race to succeed outgoing state Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D), with state Sen. Brian E. Frosh (Montgomery) — the Democratic nominee and primary architect of the legislation — a strong backer of the law, and Republican nominee Jeffrey N. Pritzker saying he believes it should be struck down.

“I will especially relish the opportunity to defend the law,” Frosh, who attended the event in Columbia, said in an interview.

Vincent DeMarco, president of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, told the activists that the law “is going to save Maryland lives.” The event took place in downtown Columbia, close to the shopping mall where Aguilar killed two store clerks in January and fired on mall patrons, injuring one, before killing himself.

Gun rights advocates have challenged the provisions of the law that ban more than 45 models of assault-style firearms, including the popular AR-15, and clips that hold more than 10 bullets. Both restrictions, advocates say, run afoul of the Second Amendment.

A group of Maryland gun dealers and clubs sued to block implementation of those provisions but was denied. The plaintiffs later sued in federal court.

In August, U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake upheld the law’s constitutionality, ruling that the measure serves the government’s public safety interests without imposing an undue burden on law-abiding gun owners. That ruling is being appealed.

Frosh, the longtime chair of the state Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, was instrumental in crafting and passing the legislation, one of the most stringent gun-control measures in the country.

Federal judges in New York and Connecticut have upheld similar bans.

The law gives Maryland State Police the authority to regulate rogue gun dealers and license all gun buyers. Purchasers must undergo four hours of safety training and pass a $50 fingerprint background check, which Frosh said will help tamp down on “straw purchases” of guns and keep legally purchased guns out of criminals’ hands.

“I look forward to enforcing it,” Frosh said.

The law also makes it more difficult for an individual who has been involuntarily committed as a result of mental illness to purchase a gun.

Pritzker, who did not attend the event in Columbia, said in an interview that he believes the law should be struck down.

“The language is arbitrary and capricious,” he said. “And I hope that these are brought forward to the Supreme Court.”