By ALLEN ETZLER
ANNAPOLIS—Nearly six in 10 Maryland voters support a ban on the sale of assault rifles in the state, according to a new poll by Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies, Inc.
The poll comes nearly a week after Gov. Martin OMalley released his proposed gun control legislation, and his proposals appear to have strong support.
Of the 801 registered voters polled, 58 percent, including 65 percent of women, support OMalleys plan to ban assault rifles, while a resounding 88 percent are in favor of a law requiring background checks while purchasing guns at gun shows. OMalley has made a concerted effort to close this loophole as a way of trying to keep guns out of the wrong hands.
According to the poll, Marylanders think stricter gun laws, not safety resource officers, will help stop school violence.
Forty-four percent say stricter gun laws are more likely to reduce violence, while 36 percent think armed guards would be the answer. Three percent say both options would reduce school violence, and 7 percent say neither option would help.
Slightly more than half of Democrats say stricter gun laws will do more to reduce school violence, and the same 52 percent of Republicans say armed guards are the better option. Independent voters slightly favor stricter laws.
Delegate John Cluster, R-Baltimore County, said Wednesday in a press release that he is proposing a bill requiring all Maryland public schools to have a Safety Resource Officer in an effort to curb school violence.
The Gonzales poll was conducted from January 15 through January 20 and includes 801 registered Maryland voters who were interviewed by phone. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Voters expressed sweeping opposition to a gas tax, as Maryland tries to address its transportation infrastructure needs.
While 94 percent of those polled agree Maryland needs to improve its transportation system, they dont feel a gas tax is the solution. Of the voters polled, 73 percent oppose a 10 cents per gallon gas tax increase that would be used for state transportation projects.
Sen. Ron Young, D-Frederick, who is sponsoring a bill that would allow each county or municipality to raise its own gas tax, said he attributes the strong opposition to two groups. Theres one group of people who wants newer services and lower taxes no matter what it costs. In other words, they want the services but they dont want to pay for them, Young said. Then the other group are people, in rural areas in particular, who feel the money is going to mass transit systems and not roads (they use), he said.
Young added that possible solutions, besides the gas tax, might include tolls in some situations, as well as task forces to give Marylanders assurances about where the money goes.
Another hot issue this legislative session, the death penalty, garnered mixed responses from voters.
While nearly half of Maryland voters still favor the death penalty, opposition has risen to 44 percent. In January 2011, the same polling firm found that 36 percent of voters opposed the death penalty.
OMalley recently said he has his sights set on repealing the death penalty in the state.
Nearly 60 percent of black voters oppose the death penalty, according to the poll. In the legislature, the Legislative Black Caucus is expected to lead the movement to repeal the death penalty.
OMalley maintains a steady approval rating of 54 percent, according to the poll. Much of OMalleys support comes from women and black voters. More than six in 10 women approve of the job OMalley is doing, and 76 percent of African-Americans have a favorable view of the governor.