Don't take your guns to town

The Baltimore Sun

Mayor Sheila Dixon appears in a TV ad that's running around the country. In it, she's identified as a Barack Obama supporter. But the Illinois senator isn't likely to welcome the gesture.

Appearing in the same ad are Jacksonville, Fla., Mayor John Peyton, who backs John McCain, and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, who's in Hillary Clinton's camp. All three mayors urge the presidential candidates to support closing a loophole that allows felons to buy guns at gun shows. So does New York's Michael Bloomberg, identified in the Mayors Against Illegal Guns spot as an "undecided voter."

Some political observers fret that the ad won't do any of the presidential hopefuls any good as the two Democrats hunt for primary voters in Pennsylvania and the Republican tries to appeal to suburbanites in the general election.

"Gun control is not an issue that any of these candidates wants to bring up right now," Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute told ABC News the other day. "For the candidates, it's a lose-lose."

That is, unless someone can actually win the presidency by standing up for their beliefs. Or what would seem to be their beliefs, given that all three candidates are shown in the ad saying they favor closing the loophole. (Obama spoke in favor earlier this year, but the ad-makers had to reach back to 2000 to find footage of Clinton and McCain pushing for it.)

Dixon spokesman Sterling Clifford said the issue might be touchy but that it's too important to ignore.

"There are people who think engaging on this gun-show loophole is too much of a hot-button issue," Clifford said. "I would suggest that the fact that the Baltimore Police Department seized almost 4,000 illegal guns last year shows it is a critical law-enforcement issue."

The young, the proud, the Republican

About 60 future lawyers turned out the other day to hear Bob Ehrlich speak to the Republican Law Society at the University of Maryland Law School. I didn't know there were that many Republicans in all of Baltimore.

"You'd be surprised," said Sebastian Kurian, a third-year student and the society president. "We actually have a fairly large number of Republicans at the school."

They just keep a lower profile than the Democrats on campus - and not just because, according to Kurian, "99 percent of the faculty and professors are Democrats and liberals."

A lot of the Democratic students enroll in the law school "specifically to work in government or to run for office someday," he said, so they're likely to be politically active. (One alum, Gov. Martin O'Malley, attended his 20th reunion Saturday.) But Kurian said the Republican students are more focused on their futures in corporate law.

"We'd be more likely to give a campaign contribution but not exactly go out and do some grass-roots work," he said. "We're not as involved in the political scene."

But they were still glad to hear from the former GOP Gov - and to hear that his firm, Womble Carlyle, will be on campus this fall to recruit interns for summer 2009.

If Ehrlich is looking for campaign recruits, sounds like he'd better look elsewhere. Kurian, who has a job lined up with Miles & Stockbridge, at least sounds willing to write him a check.

"I'm going to be working for a big firm here in Baltimore, and I'm terrified of my first tax bill," he said. "So it would be nice to get as many Republicans in office as possible."

Connect the dots

Rep. Peter King of New York welcomed Mayor Dixon yesterday as she prepared to testify before a congressional task force on gun control, The Sun's Nick Madigan reports. King said he was a friend of Dixon's predecessor, Governor O'Malley, and asked if she, too, played guitar. "No, I don't play the guitar," she said. "But I dance better than him." ... Appearing together in public yesterday for the first time since they called a truce in February: Governor O'Malley and state schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick. At an event to recognize Cecil Elementary School as a "Blue Ribbon School," Grasmick gave O'Malley a handshake, a pat on the shoulder and a warm introduction, The Sun's Bradley Olson reports. ... Was it a WYPR typo, or an invitation to pick between "all" and "some"? From a letter the station sent to supporters last month, addressing Marc Steiner's firing: "While we recognize that this change was not well-received by all some of our listeners. ... "

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