National Rifle Association President David Keene said Wednesday the organization will pursue lawsuits in two states where Democratic governors are believed to have presidential aspirations, but it might not challenge new state gun laws elsewhere.
"We're already in court in New York, and we will be in court in Maryland," Keene said in an interview. "Our feeling is that you've got a case in two states in particular that are one-party states. They both have governors who, when they close their eyes, see themselves in the White House."
Keene said the gun rights organization currently does not have plans to challenge new gun laws in Connecticut, which Keene called an "outlier" for its already strict gun laws, or in Colorado, where efforts are underway to recall two lawmakers who voted for that state's new laws.
Gov. Martin O'Malley and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, both Democrats, are considered early potential contenders for a 2016 presidential bid. New gun laws in Maryland and New York are among the strictest passed in the aftermath of the December elementary school shooting in Connecticut that killed 20 children and six educators.
As federal efforts to enact new gun control laws collapsed this month, new state laws have been the main legislative response.
Maryland's new law bans the sale of 45 types of assault-style rifles and their copycats, limits magazines to 10 bullets, and requires fingerprints and a license to buy a handgun. O'Malley plans to sign it next month. Maryland's attorney general has rebutted the NRA's allegation that the law is so broadly written that it violates the Second Amendment.
O'Malley's spokeswoman, Raquel Guillory, said Monday the governor has supported stricter gun laws dating back to his days as a prosecutor. As Baltimore mayor in 2006, O'Malley testified before state lawmakers in support of an assault weapons ban. "It has nothing to do with any outside talk of presidential aspirations," Guillory said.
Keene also discussed why the NRA would not back a referendum effort to overturn Maryland's law, which is scheduled to take effect Oct. 1 unless held up by a successful petition drive or court challenge.
Maryland gun rights advocates announced last week they would not pursue a petition drive on the grounds that civil rights should not be up for a popular vote. Keene said Wednesday it doesn't make financial sense to launch a public campaign challenging the gun control group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which is founded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire.
"We could write a check for a few million bucks," Keene said. "Our suspicion is that Michael Bloomberg would write an even bigger check."
Several public polls in Maryland show broad support for the new gun law.
Keene said that there was no set date for the NRA to file its lawsuit but that it would come shortly after O'Malley signs the bill.