Gov. Paul LePage said Thursday that he may start carrying a gun after a Republican congressman and four other people were wounded during a barrage of gunfire at a baseball field in Virginia a day earlier.

In another response to the shootings, state Rep. Richard Cebra, R-Naples, sent LePage a letter Thursday asking him to use his executive power to allow state lawmakers with concealed weapon permits to carry their guns at the State House, which is currently prohibited by Maine law.

LePage, a Republican who has long been a gun-rights advocate, made his comment after a ceremony to celebrate the opening of a new hotel in Portland.

When a reporter asked him about the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, LePage said he was troubled by it. “I’m thinking of carrying, yes,” LePage said.

Scalise remained in critical condition Thursday night with internal injuries and a broken bone in his leg.

The gunman who shot Scalise, James Hodgkinson, 66, was killed in a shootout with Capitol Police after he started firing at people at the Republican team’s practice for a charity baseball game against Democrats. Hodgkinson’s social media postings indicated he was angry at President Trump and Republicans.

As governor, LePage is assigned a 24-hour armed security detail of Maine State Police detectives, known as the Executive Protection Unit. They accompany him to all public appearances and also provide security during nonpublic events, when he travels and during his time at the Blaine House, the governor’s official residence in Augusta.

LePage long has advocated for gun rights, and in 2013 posted a photo of himself on social media displaying his state permit to carry a concealed weapon. At the time, the Legislature was passing an emergency bill that sealed permit records from public view, after requests for permit information filed under the Freedom of Access Act by the Bangor Daily News and an anonymous person.

LePage also supported a change to Maine law that removed the requirement for a permit for adults over 21 who wanted to carry a concealed handgun for personal protection, if they were not otherwise prohibited from owning a firearm. LePage even has joked about citizens shooting drug dealers, but also denied he was advocating for vigilante justice.

In August 2016, angered by what appeared to be a suggestion that state Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, had called him a racist, LePage said he wished he could go back in history and have a pistol duel with Gattine. The governor said, in part, “that’s how angry I am, and I would not put my gun in the air, I guarantee you, I would not be (Alexander) Hamilton. I would point it right between his eyes, because he is a snot-nosed little runt and he has not done a damn thing since he’s been in this Legislature to help move the state forward.”

LePage was referencing the pistol duel between Alexander Hamilton and then-Vice President Aaron Burr in July 1804 when Burr shot Hamilton, who died a day later.

“I believe in the Second Amendment very, very, very strongly,” LePage said Thursday.

The public and lawmakers are prohibited from carrying handguns at the State House and other state facilities, and the Legislature is considering a bill that would allow local governments to ban firearms in municipal buildings and polling places, with exemptions for law enforcement.

In his letter to LePage, Cebra said his request was related to the shooting of Scalise.

“Allowing such will add another level of personal protection to potentially vulnerable state officials,” said Cebra, who sponsored a bill to force Maine’s public colleges to allow people to carry concealed weapons on campuses.

Visitors to Maine’s State House must pass through security screening, including metal detectors. Armed Capital Police and unarmed security officers also are on duty at the State House.

LePage said he had not yet seen Cebra’s letter and noted that the Legislature makes the rules for the State House.

“I was very disappointed to see that the political ideology is (to) start shooting politicians. I find that pretty strange, pretty sad,” LePage said. “Listen, it’s not even politics, it’s the world, it’s a bad world right now, we have terrorism all over the place. I feel sad for that. I pray that it will go away. I hope that people come to their senses and we find a compassion for fellow human beings, but right now it’s a difficult place. The events of yesterday were very, very disheartening, particularly when they were politically driven.”

The language in the state constitution that gives Maine citizens the right to “keep and bear arms” is even more explicit than the right provided in the U.S. Constitution. “Every citizen has a right to keep and bear arms and this right shall never be questioned,” the Maine Constitution says.

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 791-6330 or at:

sthistle@pressherald.com

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