ANNAPOLIS, JULY 3 -- Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer said today that the entrance of an anti-gun-control candidate into the governor's race may make him more willing to push for further gun restrictions if the issue becomes prominent in the campaign.
At the same time, Schaefer, in an interview with reporters at the State House, said he will not debate any of his challengers because the decisions he makes as head of the government are evidence enough of where he stands.
On Monday Fred Griisser, who led the 1988 campaign to defeat Maryland's law prohibiting sale of some cheap handguns, challenged Schaefer for the nomination in the Sept. 11 Democratic primary.
Schaefer said he was not surprised at the last-minute development because "I have never had a free ride in 35 years" of campaigning.
Griisser and his lieutenant governor candidate, Sanford Abrams, ran the Maryland Committee Against the Gun Ban, a group that fought in 1988 to void a law banning so-called Saturday night specials. Schaefer supported the law and voters ratified it despite millions of dollars spent by the National Rifle Association.
At the time, Schaefer said he would not soon support other gun restrictions. Today, however, he said he agrees philosophically with efforts to ban assault weapons and, "If they're going to prod to revoke the gun ban, then we're going to rethink what we're going to do."
"I do not believe in assault guns on the street," Schaefer said.
In his announcement, Griisser did not mention gun control as an issue, except to cite his work on the referendum as what sparked his interest in running.
His platform, he said, will focus on crime, taxes and government corruption.
A spokesman for the NRA said the group is unlikely to play a role in Griisser's campaign, although no decision has been made.