March 13, 2013

Maine bill would limit ammo magazines to 10 bullets

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
State House Bureau

AUGUSTA — State lawmakers will take up a bill sponsored by Senate President Justin Alfond that would limit the capacity of ammunition magazines.

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Maine Senate President Justin Alfond

AP

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The Portland Democrat's proposal is closely modeled after one of President Obama's 23 planned executive orders that would outlaw "military-style" ammunition magazines.

Like Obama's proposal, Alfond's bill would limit to 10 the number of bullets that can be held in a magazine.

The bill is one of about a dozen that have been flagged by gun-rights activists in this legislative session. The Sportsman's Alliance of Maine, a conservation and hunting group that has led the gun-rights advocacy in the Legislature, has described Alfond's bill as potentially "anti-gun."

Gun control legislation has historically met stiff resistance in Maine, which has a rich tradition of hunting and gun ownership.

However, Alfond's involvement could give the magazine capacity bill some momentum. The bill, L.D. 997, is co-sponsored by both chairmen of the Criminal Justice Committee, Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, and Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland. Their committee will review the bill.

House Majority Leader Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, is also a co-sponsor. The bill has no Republican co-sponsors.

Alfond said in a prepared statement that the school shootings Dec. 14 in Newtown, Conn., "brought into sharp focus the complexity of gun violence in our country" and the importance of discussing gun violence.

"I believe we are at a time in our nation's history where it is time for us to act -- and to act in a way that will bring meaningful change," Alfond said. "We simply can't maintain the status quo and let another tragedy occur without checks and balances in place. Reasonable reforms like this may save innocent lives and reduce the potential of mass tragedies."

Rep. Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport, said the bill "is another infringement on our Second Amendment rights."

Fredette cited a U.S. Department of Justice report that questioned the effectiveness of restricting magazine capacity and banning assault weapons.

"Its effectiveness is not supported by the data and it's simply another feel-good measure that hurts law-abiding gun owners," Fredette said.

The bill has a provision that would allow people who already own larger-capacity magazines to keep them. The bill would also exempt retired police officers from the prohibition.

According to data collected by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, more than 1,000 gun policy bills are pending in state legislatures. Many would limit ammunition magazines and ban so-called assault weapons.

Meanwhile, several states have bills that would nullify any attempt by the federal government to outlaw high-capacity magazines or assault weapons, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Steve Mistler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:

smistler@pressherald.com

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