A Maryland advocacy group is seeking to inject gun control into the contest to replace retiring Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, calling on congressional candidates to support a federal handgun licensing bill that was approved by state lawmakers three years ago.
In a letter to House and Senate nominees, Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence asked candidates on Monday to co-sponsor a bill that would encourage states to require handgun purchasers to obtain a license, including at gun shows. The Maryland General Assembly passed such a requirement in 2013, months after the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn.
The state’s leading gun control group does not endorse candidates for federal office, but the politics of the letter are clear: Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the Democratic nominee for Senate, is the lead sponsor of the federal legislation while Del. Kathy Szeliga, the Republican nominee, voted against the state version of the bill.
“Maryland is not an island. Forty-four percent of guns used to commit crimes in Maryland are from out-of-state,” the group writes in its letter. “Although crimes committed with guns from Maryland are down, gun violence overall is on the rise in Baltimore. This problem requires a federal solution.”
The letter was also sent to House candidates, but their responses are more predictable in most cases. It is Szeliga, running a statewide campaign in a state that hasn’t elected a Republican to the Senate since 1980, who has the most at stake on the issue.