The majority of Marylanders are "damned scared" by violent crime and want stiffer gun control laws, according to the director of a University of Baltimore survey that sampled Marylanders' attitudes toward government policies and spending.
The survey, released yesterday, shows that 84 percent of the 1,032 Marylanders who were randomly questioned in December favor a ban on military-style assault weapons, 92 percent support the current seven-day waiting period before guns may be purchased and 82 percent believe gun buyers should be forced to obtain a police permit before buying a gun.
The survey, conducted by the university's Schaefer Center for Public Policy, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
The university's second annual survey indicates that 64 percent of Marylanders would like to see the National Guard used to patrol high-crime areas, and only 30 percent disapprove of the idea.
"I was a little surprised [at the results] on the weapons issue," said Don Haynes, who conducted the survey. "I was surprised at the strength of support for handgun limitations. . . . I think people are damned scared. That's what it means."
But Bob McMurray, vice president of the Maryland State Rifle and Pistol Association, said, "I don't believe those numbers. Numbers like that are usually false."
He said the survey was flawed because federal law prohibits the use of National Guard troops as police except for emergencies, the state already requires a police permit for gun purchases, and that press attention to assault weapons has distorted the fact that handguns are involved in most crimes in Maryland.
The survey also asked Marylanders about the state's new lottery game, keno.
Forty-seven percent said they did not think keno was the right way for the state to raise revenue; 24 percent had no problem with the new game. Nearly one-third had no opinion.
Mr. Haynes said the keno question cast the issue in a moral light, but did not make respondents consider the budgetary ramifications of alternative reductions in spending if revenues from keno could not be counted upon.
The high number of Marylanders with no opinion, he said, indicates that keno is a "nonissue" to many people.
The survey also found that:
* 71 percent favor term limits for members of Congress and members of the General Assembly;
* 66 percent oppose legalizing some drugs as a way of reducing crime;
* 60 percent supported the state's new requirement that high school students perform community service before they are allowed to graduate.
* 78 percent cited rising insurance costs as the health-care issue of most concern to them, followed closely by worry over higher out-of-pocket costs for health care and cuts in benefits.
But Mr. Haynes noted widespread disagreement over how to reduce health-care costs.
"Everybody is concerned about it," he said.
"Everybody wants freedom of choice for their own doctors. No one wants to pay more.
"And no one knows what to do about it."