Democrat Ben Jealous said Tuesday that if he were elected governor over a popular Republican incumbent he would support broadening a new Maryland gun-control law to restrict firearms access to people found to be a risk to themselves or others. The former NAACP president also said he would stand up to President Donald Trump, whom he believes should be impeached.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Jealous said he supports significantly expanding the state's new "red flag'' law to enable more people in Maryland to ask courts to temporarily restrict firearms for people found to pose a threat. The law now enables families, law enforcement and medical professionals to do so.
"We have an interest in protecting peoples' constitutional rights, including the Second Amendment, Jealous said. But he added, "we have zero interest in creating obstacles to removing weapons from mentally deranged people who would do the public harm."
Maryland has been shaken this year by gun violence, a major issue in the governor's race. Jealous is running against popular Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who signed the red flag measure into law that was approved by the Democrat-controlled Maryland General Assembly. Hogan has had big leads in recent polls and a large campaign fundraising edge.
In March, a female student was fatally shot by a classmate at a high school in southern Maryland before the 17-year-old gunman shot and killed himself. In June, a man with a shotgun attacked the Capital/Gazette newspaper office in Annapolis, killing five employees. Last month, a woman killed three people at a Maryland warehouse before she shot herself. Authorities said she had been diagnosed with mental illness in 2016, but had legally purchased the handgun she used.
Maryland lawmakers already are talking about expanding the red flag law, which took effect Oct 1.
Jealous, who highlights his "F" grade from the National Rifle Association, said he would support significantly expanding the law.
"It could be the postman who's delivering the weapons who's noticing that the person is paranoid,'' Jealous said. "It could be the neighbor. It could be the target of stalking and threats."
Meanwhile, Jealous and other Maryland Democrats have argued that Hogan should be speaking out more against the president, who won only 34 percent of the vote in Maryland. Hogan, however, has put a lot of distance between himself and Trump, who is unpopular in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1. Hogan said he didn't even vote for Trump, instead casting his ballot for his father, a former Maryland congressman.
Jealous underscored his opposition to Trump on Tuesday, saying if Democrats take control of the U.S. House, he believes they should impeach the president. Jealous cited allegations of obstruction of justice relating to his firing of former FBI Director James Comey, as grounds to move ahead with impeachment. He also cited allegations that Trump has violated a provision of the U.S. Constitution banning the acceptance of gifts from foreign and domestic interests.
"Trump should be impeached," Jealous said.
Jealous also said he would stand up to the president and counter his policies, if elected. Jealous cited work he did to advance legislation and later a Maryland ballot question that was approved in 2012 to allow immigrants in the country illegally to pay in-state tuition at public colleges, if they meet certain qualification.
"If you want to send a clear message to Donald Trump, send a civil rights leader to be your next governor," Jealous said.
Here is a look at some other topics Jealous spoke about during the interview:
To fight opioid overdoses, Jealous said he would support creating safe consumption sites for drug addicts to use drugs under supervision. "We need to be more courageous,'' he said, adding that more crisis response centers are needed around the state and better access to overdose antidotes.
DOWN IN POLLS
Behind as much as 20 percentage points to Hogan in recent polls, Jealous said the polls are a function of his opponent's better name recognition, which he believes he will be able to overcome with advertising in the final weeks before Election Day. "We are focused on raising the funds we need for advertising in the last two weeks and getting folks to knock on every door.''