AUGUSTA — Maine’s legislative leaders have rejected a proposal to prohibit the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips.

The Legislative Council, which has six Republican members and four Democrats, voted 5-5 Thursday on a bill proposed by state Rep. Anne Haskell, D-Portland.

A majority vote was required for the bill to be considered by the Legislature, because it was filed after the deadline for legislation.

“I submitted this in response to the events in Tucson and conversations with individuals after that,” said Haskell, the top House Democrat on the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. “I think it’s an important discussion for us to have at this time.”

On Jan. 8, six people were killed in the Arizona shootings that seriously injured Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The alleged gunman reportedly used ammunition clips that held 30 or more rounds, prompting many state and federal lawmakers to reconsider gun laws.

The deadline for lawmakers to file bills was Jan. 7, which is why Haskell’s bill was late.

One Republican, state Rep. Andre Cushing, R-Hampden, voted with the council’s four Democrats to allow the bill’s consideration, but the other five Republicans voted against it.

The council is made up of the 10 members of legislative leadership, including the Senate president and the House speaker. Its approval is needed for any bill that is filed after the deadline.

The lawmakers were briefed on potential new State House security measures by Capitol Police Chief Russell Gauvin and David Boulter, executive director of the Legislative Council. The review had been requested before the shootings in Tucson.

One option would keep the status quo, while three others would use screening equipment purchased about 10 years ago with federal grant money but never used. The screening equipment would likely require a reconfiguration of the State House entrance.

The total additional cost could range from $50,000 to $300,000 a year, depending on how frequently screenings would be done.

The three screening options are to use the equipment only rarely, use it periodically or hire enough people to screen everyone who is not pre-authorized to be in the building.

Lawmakers said they remain concerned about the safety of state workers and the public, but want to review the security report further before making a decision.

“We’re mindful not only of the state employees that work here, but also that on any given day, there can be busloads of children from all across the state who are visiting here,” said Senate President Kevin Raye, R-Perry.

“I feel a very serious obligation to know that we are doing whatever we can to ensure their safety, given obviously heightened awareness,” Raye said.

House Speaker Bob Nutting, R-Oakland, said it probably would not be worth it for the screening equipment to be set up but never used.

“What I don’t think would be helpful would be to roll these machines out into the entryway and have them sit there where it was obvious they weren’t being used,” he said.

More than half of all states use screening equipment at their capitols, according to a report by the National Council of State Legislatures.

A council subcommittee was asked to recommend how to proceed to the full council by next month’s meeting. 

MaineToday Media State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at: [email protected]