O'Malley's choice of words -- more common among teenagers than presidential candidates -- seemed a gambit to attract attention to a campaign mired in the low single digits in early-state polls. But a spokeswoman said the tone was a true reflection of how the former Maryland governor, who has used salty language on other recent occasions, feels about the issue.
In the e-mail, O'Malley pointed to his record as governor, which included passage in 2013 of a wide-ranging gun-safety bill. On the national level, he is calling for an assault weapons ban, stricter background checks and efforts to prevent "straw purchases" of guns, such as fingerprinting requirements, which Maryland implemented.
O'Malley's proposals are more specific than anything his Democratic rivals, including former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), have suggested in recent days. In the past, Clinton has supported banning assault weapons and other measures favored by gun-control advocates. Sanders has a mixed record that includes voting against the landmark Brady bill that required background checks and a waiting period before buying a firearm.
"I'm pissed that after working hard in the state of Maryland to pass real gun control — laws that banned high-magazine weapons, increased licensing standards, and required fingerprinting for handgun purchasers — Congress continues to drop the ball," O'Malley wrote.
He also knocked Republicans running for president, saying none of them have been "even close to being right on this issue."
In late April, O'Malley raised eyebrows when during an interview on National Public Radio, he referred to a Republican economic argument as "patently bulls---." Afterward, he sent an email to supporters with the subject header, "Yeah, I said it." O'Malley used the same epithet in a conversation with reporters during a recent trip to the early nominating state of New Hampshire.