Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., whose voting record on guns has been excoriated by gun-control groups, issued a statement yesterday expressing shock at "the senseless and seemingly random shootings in Montgomery County."
"My prayers are with the families of those who have been shot and the parents of every child affected," the Baltimore County congressman said.
"Maryland has some of the most restrictive and progressive gun laws in the nation that must be used to track and prosecute these killers," he said.
"As we learn more, I will call for the full and swift enforcement of every single, relevant law on our books. ... Politics has no place in the investigation or outcome of these crimes, today or in the future."
Ever since Ehrlich announced his run for governor, his voting record on gun legislation has come under the microscope of gun-control groups.
Anti-gun advocates were further energized last month after Ehrlich told reporters that as governor he would review the effectiveness of two of the state's tough gun laws.
Among other groups, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has run anti-Ehrlich advertisements on radio and television. Its TV ad, running on cable channels in Montgomery County, shows an image of students and teachers fleeing Columbine High School, where 12 students and a teacher were killed in a shooting rampage in 1999.
Polls show that residents in Montgomery- the state's largest jurisdiction and a key voting bloc in the governor's race - heavily favor gun control.
Brady Campaign spokeswoman Amy Stilwell said yesterday that Ehrlich's statement looked a shade hypocritical. "He fought against so many of those progressive and aggressive gun laws," she said. "It's very interesting that in a crisis he should stand behind the very guns that he sought to defeat."
Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Democratic nominee for governor, said Ehrlich's statement was inappropriate.
"I think the focus right now should be on catching the killers. It is not the time at this very moment, when families are suffering and trying to recover from this terrible tragedy, to put a political issue in play," she said.
Rep. Constance A. Morella, who represents Montgomery, called this sort of shooting spree "unprecedented" in the county.
Morella, a gun-control advocate, said she hoped to learn what the weapon or weapons were, where they originated and what could be done to keep them from criminals.
Sun staff writer David Nitkin contributed to this article.