Proponents of the licensing provision say requiring purchasers to submit fingerprints to police would reduce so-called straw purchases, when a family member, friend or acquaintance buys a gun on behalf of another person who might not qualify.
“I support it, absolutely,” said John Pendelton, 58, of Temple Hills. “Those secondhand gun buys, they’re a problem, and if someone gets caught, they should be punished just as equally as someone who uses the gun.”
The vast majority in the state’s gun-owning households support background checks at gun shows, something that is already required in Maryland but not across the Potomac River in Virginia. A clear majority also supports placing armed guards in schools.
But Maryland residents in gun-owning households split more closely on banning assault weapons, with 53 percent in support to 45 percent in opposition. Over half of gun owners, 54 percent, oppose banning high-capacity clips.
Overall, 64 percent of Marylanders in gun-owning households oppose stricter Maryland gun control. Republicans also oppose it by 64 percent to 34 percent.
Maryland, however, is not much of a gun state, according to the poll. Just 29 percent of Marylanders live in gun-owning households, compared with 44 percent nationally in a recent Post-ABC poll.
Although a majority of Marylanders continue to support the death penalty, some of the arguments O’Malley is making appear to resonate.
By nearly 2 to 1, those polled say that the death penalty is not a deterrent to murder and does not lower the murder rate. And most who responded that way say they feel strongly about their view.
Moreover, nearly one-third of Marylanders — including nearly half of African Americans — say capital punishment has been applied unfairly in the state. That’s another argument O’Malley has advanced in a state where five men sit on death row but no executions have taken place since 2005.
Yet even when those arguments are stated explicitly — as well as questions that critics have raised about the morality of capital punishment — support for repeal is tepid among the public.
Some supporters of the death penalty say they are not about to budge on their views.
“I believe in an eye for an eye,” said Denise Johnson, 30, an X-ray technician who lives in Baltimore. “If I go out and kill someone, what right do I have to walk around?”
Johnson said she is convinced that the death penalty can be a deterrent to killing in some cases.
“Maybe it makes some people think twice,” she said. “Jail’s not even that bad anymore, from what I hear.”
Marylanders such as Johnson who believe the death penalty is a deterrent say by an 84 to 13 percent margin that the punishment should be kept on the books as an option.
Others are more conflicted and open to arguments that capital punishment should be abolished.
Justin Kander, a student majoring in marketing at the University of Maryland at College Park, acknowledged that he is “a little bit on the fence” when it comes to the death penalty.
Kander said he is okay with capital punishment for people convicted of “extremely heinous crimes” yet he worries about the state executing an innocent person.
Kander said he considers life without the possibility of parole to be “a pretty acceptable replacement.”
“It’s still an extremely bad punishment, and in some cases, it’s worse than death,” he said.
There are deep divisions over the death penalty based on party affiliation, race, sex and other demographics.
More than half of Democrats oppose capital punishment, while three-quarters of Republicans support it.
About six in 10 men support the death penalty, while women are nearly evenly divided.
Whites support capital punishment by a margin of about 2 to 1, while a majority of African Americans are opposed. And blacks and whites differ significantly on whether it is imposed fairly.
The Post poll was conducted Feb. 21-24 among a random sample of 1,156 adult residents of Maryland. The results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.
John Wagner and Kate Havard contributed to this report.
Capital Insight Director Jon Cohen and pollster Scott Clement also contributed to this report. Capital Insight is the independent polling group of Washington Post Media.