A fund-raising letter from the leader of a gun dealers group on behalf of Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey suggests that if elected governor, she would undo state gun-control regulations -- an appeal that has angered gun-control advocates and others.
The August letter to gun dealers from Sanford Abrams, vice president of the Maryland Licensed Firearms Dealers Association Inc., calls Sauerbrey "the savior of our industry.
"Ellen Sauerbrey will not only veto any anti-gun legislation, but through regulations and executive orders can actually start to reverse the damage caused" during Gov. Parris N. Glendening's four-year term, Abrams wrote.
Sauerbrey denied those assertions yesterday, calling speculation about her commitment to enforcing gun laws a "red herring."
Sauerbrey said: "As governor, I will uphold those laws, and I do not intend to launch a career to try to undo what the legislature has done."
Even so, the letter prompted criticism yesterday from several Glendening allies -- elected officials, the head of a Baltimore ministers group, a police union president, and others.
"This letter is a slap in the face of every law-enforcement officer across this state," Gary McLhinney, president of Baltimore's Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, said at a news conference in East Baltimore.
In a day of escalating rhetoric in a campaign that polls show to be a dead heat, Sauerbrey picked up the endorsement of a conservative business group that praised her economic development agenda.
Two Democrats, former delegates Richard Rynd and Theodore Levin of Baltimore County, are scheduled to announce their support for Sauerbrey today.
Meanwhile, the leading state-employee union bashed Sauerbrey for her legislative voting record on labor issues.
Glendening allies spent much of the day using the gun dealers' fund-raising letter to highlight differences between the two candidates on the issue of gun control.
The governor has run ads citing Sauerbrey's opposition to all major gun-control bills passed in Maryland in the past two decades. Despite her long-held views, Sauerbrey has said often during the campaign that she would not try to overturn those laws if elected.
But the August letter from Abrams, a leading voice against gun-control laws in Annapolis, raised a scenario that Glendening backers have sketched privately in recent weeks -- that a Governor Sauerbrey would use her executive powers to weaken the impact of Maryland's gun laws, bypassing the General Assembly.
The governor, for example, appoints the Handgun Roster Board, which decides which makes of handgun may be made or sold in Maryland. The governor sets the budget and has oversight of the state police, which enforces Maryland's law limiting gun purchases to one a month. The state police also handle applications from people seeking permits to carry handguns.
Sauerbrey found support, meanwhile, from Maryland Business for Responsive Government, a group that has lobbied for such traditionally conservative issues as right-to-work laws and tax cuts.
"The business climate in this state is going to improve as it never has in my lifetime" under a Sauerbrey administration, said Robert O. C. "Rocky" Worcester, president of the organization.
But Sauerbrey ran into criticism from one Glendening's core constituencies -- state employees.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents many state workers and has endorsed Glendening, issued a report card giving Sauerbrey an "F" on labor issues.
Pub Date: 10/16/98