Former Gov. Martin O"Malley said Friday that he won't be deterred from vigorously criticizing front-runner Hillary Clinton in his race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.
O'Malley, appearing on MSNBC's Morning Joe program, told co-host Mika Brzezinski that he isn't concerned about damage to his career or retaliation by party leaders if he criticizes Clinton too harshly.
"My career ended when I was elevated to the rank of citizen about three months ago," he said." I don't have a career to kill."
O'Malley, who actually left office five months ago, was responding to a question about former White House speech writer Peggy Noonan's contention in the Wall Street Journal that Clinton's Democratic challengers were pulling their punches in their campaigns because of a concern they could become pariahs in their party if they go after the presumptive nominee on a personal level or criticize her ethical practices.
Noonan, who worked for President Ronald Reagan, predicted Clinton would "glide" to the nomination "dinged but not damaged."
O'Malley said he was encouraged by a poll showing that 59 percent of New Hampshire Democrats want to have an alternative to Clinton in the nation's first primary.
While the former Maryland governor said he would have no compunction about attacking Clinton, he did not level personal criticism of her Friday. His most pointed remark came as he sought to contrast his position with Clinton's on President Obama's proposed Asian trade deal, which the former secretary of state recently criticized.
"I was opposed to it not after it failed but before it," O'Malley said.
In the wake of the slaying of nine people at a Charleston, S.C., church Wednesday, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough asked O'Malley about how to prevent such incidents. Scarborough said the law O'Malley pushed through the Maryland General Assembly after the Newtown, Conn., school massacre would not have prevented the accused Charleston shooter from obtaining his gun, reportedly a gift from his father.
O'Malley said the nation's laws must deal with both gun control and mental health, adding that the Maryland law he signed addressed both issues.
"It's a matter of doing both, and not either/or," he said.
O'Mallley said the "vast majority" of Americans would favor background checks for handgun purchasers. But the former governor acknowledged the difficulty of preventing such shootings.
"How do you make sense of giving a gun to a troubled young man?" he said.
The former governor followed up his TV appearance with an email from his campaign with the subject line "I'm pissed." In it, he wrote about the the things that anger him about the Charleston shooting and pointed to his record of support for gun control.
"I'm pissed that after working hard in the state of Maryland to pass real gun control -- laws that banned high-magazine weapons, increased licensing standards, and required fingerprinting for handgun purchasers — Congress continues to drop the ball," he said.
O'Malley spelled out steps he would support as president: a national assault rifle ban, stricter background checks and a fingerprinting requirement for gun purchases -- all provisions of the Maryland law.
He said it was time for the United State to stop "caving" to the National Rifle Association.
Asked on MSNBC about the racial aspect of the Charleston shootings, in which the victims were black and the accused killer is white, O'Malley said the nation has to face up to its history.
"We do it by acknowledging the racial legacy we share as Americans," he said.
O'Malley, who has been working to differentiate himself from Clinton as she has moved to the left, cast himself as a critic of the financial industry, with which Bill and Hillary Clinton have had close ties.
"Wealth and power has become very, very concentrated in our country,' he said, adding that Americans are looking for "new leadership."