The National Rifle Association said Saturday that it was downgrading Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s ranking and refusing to endorse him — after he signed several pieces of gun control legislation.
Jennifer Baker, a spokeswoman for the NRA, said the organization now rates Hogan a “C” grade on protecting the rights of gun owners. Four years ago, it rated Hogan as an “A-.”
Baker added that the NRA will not be endorsing Hogan this election as it did during his successful run for governor in 2014.
Baker said she couldn’t elaborate on what specifically caused NRA leadership to change its view of Hogan. But Hogan has signed into law several gun control bills, including “red flag” legislation meant to empower law enforcement or relatives to petition a judge to remove firearms from a person deemed dangerous.
Hogan campaign spokesman Doug Mayer said the governor supports the Second Amendment rights of gun owners.
“The governor’s position on guns will never change; he wants to make it harder for criminals and the mentally ill to get access to them,” Mayer said. “He will continue to pursue policies that work to achieve those goals.”
About 20 percent of Marylanders own a gun, according to a 2015 study.
Baker said the NRA has given an “F” grade to Democrat Ben Jealous, who is running against Hogan. The NRA also rated the Democrats’ last candidate for governor, former Lt.-Gov. Anthony Brown, as an “F” four years ago.
In a statement, Jealous said he wears the “F” grade as a “badge of honor.”
"The mass shootings, gun-related incidents of domestic violence, and everyday gun violence in neighborhoods across Maryland have cut the lives of too many of our young people short and devastated families for too long,” Jealous said. “But the NRA continues to stand in the way of commonsense gun safety measures that could make a difference. We need a governor with the courage to stand up to the NRA, not because it's popular, but because it's necessary to keep us safe.”
The Jealous campaign noted that Hogan received $4,000 in campaign funds from the NRA Political Victory Fund in January of 2015.
Jealous in July released his answers to the 2018 National Rifle Association questionnaire and called on Hogan to do the same. Jealous has repeatedly criticized Hogan for never releasing his answers to the NRA in a four-year-old questionnaire, which helped him earn the “A-” grade.
Both Hogan and Jealous met in July with students from Southern Maryland’s Great Mills High School, the site of a fatal school shooting this year. To the students, both candidates pledged to reject any money or support from the NRA.
The students — Jaxon O’Mara, a senior, and Mollie Davis, a recent graduate — said this week Jealous has followed up with them several times while Hogan hasn’t. They said they’re urging Hogan to be more outspoken publicly against the NRA.
“Larry Hogan, in a private setting, he denounced the NRA but he still hasn’t denounced the NRA publicly,” Davis said.
O’Mara said Jealous and his running mate, Susan Turnbull, have been in frequent contact with the students.
“We’ve been getting continued support from the Jealous campaign,” O’Mara said. “They’ve given us opportunities to lift our voices up and they are very open to our questions and comments. I do believe that they are genuine.”
On Jealous’ 2018 NRA questionnaire, the former NAACP president wrote he agrees that the Second Amendment guarantees all law-abiding Americans a right to own firearms. But he said he supports additional restrictions on gun ownership in Maryland, including expanding licensing requirements to apply to all guns, similar to current restrictions on handguns.
He said he would support legislation to make it illegal for an adult to leave a firearm where a person younger than 18 can get access to it, citing the shooting at Great Mills.