RICHMOND — Gov. Paul LePage touched on the June 12 Orlando, Florida, nightclub shooting that left 50 people dead, including the shooter, as he spoke Wednesday evening at a town hall -style meeting.

LePage’s meeting attracted more than 150 people to Richmond High School.

“Terrorism isn’t going to change,” he said. “You’re not going to change someone’s heart from hatred.”

LePage was responding to a question from Howard Solomon, of Bowdoinham, about what governors can do to stop such mass shootings that Solomon called “an insult to our country” and “an insult to our way of life.”

LePage said he favors comprehensive action that looks at links between guns and mental illness.

“I don’t believe that it’s the guns that do the harm; it’s the people that have the guns in their hands,” LePage said. “If you go after guns without going after mental illness, you cannot accomplish anything.”

He said he bought a home in Waterville where a woman had been killed, shot by a robber who used a gun he had stolen in the town of China. “He was a bad guy; 95 percent of Americans who own guns are not bad people,” LePage said, sparking a round of applause.

He said he owned a gun and kept it in a bedside table in his Florida home and told his wife how to protect herself and her mother, who also was living there at the time.

“I said, ‘Honey, there’s two things you do. Take it, cock it and shoot. You don’t give them a warning; if they’re not supposed to be there, they’re not supposed to be there.'”

He said he was not in favor of “everyone running around with a gun” but added, “I will protect my family with a gun if I have to.”

LePage said the Orlando killings were heart-wrenching. Then he referred the 2-year-old killed last week by an alligator at a Disney World resort.

“Do we eradicate all alligators?” he asked.

The governor covered a wide range of subjects at his meeting, saying he’s working to reduce taxes, energy costs and an anti-business culture, all themes he regularly addresses at the town halls he holds on an almost weekly basis at various municipalities in Maine, including the one he had two weeks ago in Augusta.

However, in addition to the gun control response, LePage also talked about his effort to limit the kinds of food people can purchase with the federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, commonly known as SNAP.

“I’m not against the program,” he said, adding that he wants the money going to nutritional food, “not to drugs, not to cigarettes, not to alcohol.”.

He said a focus on nutrition will combat Maine’s problems with obesity, Type 2 diabetes and hunger.

LePage also gave a primer on five referendum questions the voters will see on the November ballot and providing reasons for his opposition to all, and calling a proposal to move to “ranked choice” voting as “simply bad.”

He took a dig at the news media as well, paraphrasing one of President Lyndon Johnson’s famous remarks:

“I could walk across the Kennebec River tomorrow morning at 7 a.m., and the headlines on Friday would say, ‘Governor can’t swim,” LePage said.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

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Twitter: @betadams