Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Thursday told a group of students from Great Mills High School, where a 16-year- old girl was killed earlier this year, that he would support toughening a law that holds parents responsible when their children gain access to their guns.
The Republican governor, who is seeking a second term and faces a challenge from Democrat Ben Jealous, also told the teenagers that he would reject an election endorsement from the National Rifle Association if the organization offered one.
“He told them he wasn’t expecting it and didn’t want it,” Hogan spokeswoman Amelia Chasse said of an NRA endorsement. “He doesn’t think the NRA are big fans of his at the moment.”
Hogan signed numerous gun control measures after the March school shooting, including a “red flag” bill designed to keep guns out of the hands of people who are deemed a danger to themselves and others, and legislation that bans bump stocks and other rapid-trigger devices.
He was endorsed by the NRA when he ran for governor in 2014.
The 40-minute meeting with the students, who are planning a gun-violence awareness rally in Annapolis this weekend, was four months in the making, senior Jaxon O’Mara said.
“It really went well,” she said. “I was surprised at how receptive he was.”
O’Mara was not at school the day 17-year-old Austin Rollins entered the school with a semiautomatic handgun owned by his father and fired at Jaelynn Rose Willey in the school hallway.
But she does remember the tweets from her friends at school. She also remembered seeing a plea from Jaelynn’s mother, Melissa Willey, on social media moments after the shooting, asking students to tell her daughter to contact her.
And she remembers “bawling” when she learned that Jaelynn, who was a family friend, was taken off life support.
“Before the shooting, my biggest worry was prom,” O’Mara said.
Now she has joined a group of young activists organizing protests, pushing for meetings with elected officials and calling for changes to state and federal gun laws.
Among their objectives, they want the Maryland legislature to toughen a state law that says a person may not store or leave a loaded firearm in a location where the person knows or should know that an unsupervised child younger than 16 can gain access to it.
The students want the law to cover those younger than 18.
“It’s very frustrating, because a lot of people in our community feel no one is being held responsible,” O’Mara said. “We’re not on a witch hunt on the family of the shooter. We just want to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
Hogan told the students that he would support the age change.