The National Rifle Association hasn’t endorsed Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s bid for re-election this November, but the Republican governor told a group of student activists Friday that he wouldn’t accept the organization’s support even if it offered.
Hogan was speaking at a meeting at Great Mills High School, where a student fatally shot a classmate in March and then killed himself.
The governor was on hand to discuss firearms policy ahead of a student-led gun violence rally set to be held in Annapolis this weekend, according to The Washington Post. The two sides appeared to find some common ground in their willingness to push back against the NRA.
Hogan received the NRA’s endorsement in 2014, but he’s never been particularly cozy with the gun group. Some political insiders saw the move as evidence more of the NRA’s extreme dislike of Hogan’s Democratic opponent than of the group’s support for Hogan’s actual positions on guns.
Hogan’s relationship with the NRA has likely become more strained during his first term, especially recently. The governor bolstered the deep blue state’s already strong gun laws in April, signing a set of gun legislation that included a bump stock ban and a “red flag” law, which allows family members and law enforcement to petition to have firearms removed from individuals they believe to be dangerous. Hogan also approved $5 million in grants for programs designed to address urban gun violence. The NRA opposed all three bills.
Given that history, Hogan didn’t have much reason to believe the NRA would offer an endorsement in the first place, a spokeswoman for the governor told the Post.
“He told them he wasn’t expecting it and didn’t want it,” she said. “He doesn’t think the NRA are big fans of his at the moment.”
When asked what had changed since 2014, when Hogan accepted the NRA’s endorsement, the spokeswoman told HuffPost: “During his campaign in 2014, the governor said he would not act to change Maryland’s gun laws, which are among the toughest in the nation. He has not only kept that promise, but has supported and signed additional measures to keep guns out of the hands of violent offenders and individuals with mental illness.”
The NRA did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
Although the NRA may not end up playing a significant role in Maryland’s gubernatorial election, gun violence could be an issue more generally in November. Shootings have continued to tear through Baltimore in 2018, following a three-year period in which the city saw more than 1,000 homicides. One of the deadliest mass shootings of the year thus far also struck the state in June, when a gunman shot his way into an Annapolis newsroom and killed five staffers.
Students at Great Mills High School say there’s more the governor could do to prevent this bloodshed. At their meeting Friday, they spoke with Hogan about strengthening a state law to make it illegal for a person to store or leave a loaded firearm in a location where someone under the age of 18 could access it without supervision. The existing law applies for children under the age of 16. The Great Mills school shooter was 17.
A student told the Post that Hogan was “receptive” to their proposal.
Hogan will face Democrat Ben Jealous, former head of the NAACP, in November.
This story has been updated with additional comments from Hogan’s spokeswoman.