Election-year politics burst out at the Baltimore County Council meeting Tuesday as two Democratic candidates seeking to be the next county executive offered support for a gun control bill sponsored by their common rival: Councilwoman Vicki Almond.
Almond, a Reisterstown Democrat running for county executive, is sponsoring a bill that would prohibit adults from leaving loaded guns where children younger than 18 could find them. The measure would be tougher than a state law that sets the same prohibition, but for children younger than 16.
The council held a public hearing Tuesday for the bill that Almond introduced earlier this month and that the council will vote on at its next meeting on Monday.
“Day after day we hear about the tragic school shootings,” Almond said. The bill, she added, would be a success if it saved just one child’s life.
Johnny Olszewski Jr., one of the Democrats running in the June 26 primary election, attended the meeting and signed up to be granted the awkward opportunity to praise legislation introduced by an opponent.
The former state delegate from Dundalk commended the bill and said it’s important for local politicians to act on gun control because Congress has not.
But his appearance gave Almond the perfect opportunity to publicly challenge Olszewski’s record on gun control. In 2013, as a delegate, Olszewski voted against the assault weapons ban that the ultimately passed the General Assembly.
During the Tuesday meeting, Almond asked Olszewski to explain his vote.
Olszewski — wearing a suit and speaking as if he was in a debate — thanked Almond for the question and repeated the answer he gives on the campaign trail about the vote: That it was a mistake.
“It’s a vote I’ve changed my mind on,” Olszewski said. “I am focused on the future and the safety of our children.”
State Sen. Jim Brochin, the third major Democratic candidate in the primary, did not attend the meeting but a well-known supporter of his campaign, Yara Cheikh, claimed to speak on Brochin’s behalf.
“His record was one of smart gun regulations,” said Cheikh, who often testifies on public school issues. “And if he was here, he would offer his support.”
Brochin has been challenged on the campaign trail for previously accepting campaign donations from the National Rifle Association.
Council Chairman Julian Jones, who supports Almond, read from a letter to the editor that appeared in The Baltimore Sun that blasted Brochin’s positions on gun control.
“They have some cases and points here where they don’t think he’s been very friendly with supporting safe gun legislation, but in fact, supportive of the NRA,” Jones said.
Councilwoman Cathy Bevins, another Almond supporter, said she wanted to know how much money Brochin’s campaign has accepted from the NRA.
Cheikh stood in the audience and offered to answer for Brochin, but Jones did not let her speak.
“We’re not going to get into a point-counterpoint,” Jones said, and moved on to the next bill.
Before the public hearing, Almond held a news conference to promote her bill that featured newly sworn-in County Executive Don Mohler saying he would sign the bill into law if it comes to his desk.
Mohler called it “common sense” legislation that should draw bipartisan support.