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Hogan pivots on guns in schools, claims lawmakers who disagree are ‘pro-criminal’

The so-called moderate Republican is also angry the Democratic legislature did not back his proposed mandatory minimums law.

Gov. Larry Hogan (R-MD) speaking after a March 2018 school shooting
Gov. Larry Hogan (R-MD) speaking after a March 2018 school shooting. (PHOTO CREDIT: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan won re-election in the usually blue state of Maryland last year by running as a moderate who backed gun violence prevention efforts to stop school shootings. But Monday, he lashed out at his Democratic-controlled state legislature, calling them “pro-criminal” because they did not support his efforts to put more guns in schools and increase mandatory minimum sentences for armed violent repeat offenders.

Though research has shown little benefit to arming adults in schools to prevent school violence, Hogan blasted the legislature’s refusal to allow school security officers in Baltimore City schools to carry guns.

“This seems to be like the most pro-criminal group of legislators I’ve ever seen,” he said. “And it’s not what most people in the state want to see happen. They want to see us stop the violent crime.”

The Baltimore City delegation voted 10 to 5 against the proposal, effectively killing it for the session. According to WJZ television, current law requires those officers to keep service weapons in a secure area during the school day. Baltimore City Councilman Zeke Cohen told the outlet that, “For a population of children who are already overexposed to firearms, having more guns in our schools is not the right call.”

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Hogan disagreed. According to the Washington Post, he criticized the legislative majority for “talking about silly things” like a ban on 3-D-printed plastic guns — something even President Donald Trump has spoken out against — since no one had yet used one to commit a crime in Maryland.

“Sure let’s do it,” Hogan said, “but what are we going to do about the people committing crimes with real guns?”

Hogan’s comments this week were a shift from his previous remarks on the topic of guns in schools.

“Classrooms should never be a place of fear for our children,” Hogan said following a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida last year, which left 17 people dead. “Government at all levels is grappling with what more can be done to keep our kids safe.”

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At the time, Hogan said he would oppose President Donald Trump’s proposal to arm teachers in order to deter school shootings, saying he would support enhanced security measures, such as more metal detectors, panic buttons, and secured doors and windows, instead.

However, Hogan has since adopted Trump’s rhetoric on the subject. Trump tweeted in January that “Democrats will soon be known as the Party of Crime” because they would not agree to fund his proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, through which Trump claimed smugglers were trafficking guns and drugs meant to harm American citizens.

“The Dems are for Open Borders and Crime!” he tweeted again last week.

The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Hogan’s shift in rhetoric.

The change comes as Hogan is considering a possible primary challenge to Trump for the Republican presidential nomination in 2020. He told The Washington Post last week that he is “for a bigger tent, for coming up with ideas and solutions that can reach a wider audience.”

“I appeal to Republicans because my message is: I haven’t abandoned my principles. I’ve just said, let’s deal in the art of the possible,” he said.

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With Trump’s approval rating chronically underwater with the general public but high among Republicans, Hogan may have to change his tone to appeal to today’s GOP primary base. But experts think he may be couching his language intentionally.

Stella Rouse, who leads the Center for American Politics and Citizenship at the University of Maryland, noted in an email that there is a difference between arming teachers, as Trump proposed, and arming police and security guards.

“If a shift has occurred in Hogan’s rhetoric, it could be to broaden his appeal to a national Republican audience,” she said. “Certainly, he has not closed the door on making a presidential run.”

This story has been updated to add comments from Stella Rouse at the Center for American Politics and Citizenship.