April 8, 2013

Hearings to get Maine's gun control debate off with a bang

Polls show broad support for stricter gun control, but the vocal gun-rights supporters wield a lot of influence.

By Tom Bell tbell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

The Maine Legislature this week will finally take up gun control, one of the most contentious issues of the session.

Today's poll: Gun control

Should the Maine Legislature pass more gun control laws?



View Results

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Staff photo by Joe Phelan Criminal Justice Committee co-chairs Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, left, and Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland, seen at a work session on Friday April 5, 2013 in State House in Augusta.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Related headlines

Firearm and Ammunition Legislation Introduced to the 126th Legislature

Criminal Justice and Public Safety Public Hearing Schedule

Full text of the following bills may be found at http://www.mainelegislature.org/LawMakerWeb/advancedsearch.asp

Monday, April 8, 2013 10 am

LD 267, “An Act Regarding the Sale of Firearms at Gun Shows” Sen. Gerzofsky of Cumberland

This bill requires that a national instant criminal background check be performed prior to the sale or transfer of a firearm at a gun show. The bill makes a gun show operator responsible for any failure to perform a required background check and subject to a fine of up to $10,000 for each such failure.

LD 380, “An Act to Clarify the Law Concerning the Threatening Display of Dangerous Weapons” Rep. Gattine of Westbrook

This bill amends the law regarding threatening display or carrying of a dangerous weapon by clarifying that "display in a threatening manner" includes to display a dangerous or deadly weapon in a public place in a way that causes a reasonable person to suffer intimidation or alarm.

LD 997
, “An Act to Establish Restrictions on Ammunition Feeding Devices” Pres. Alfond of Cumberland

This bill makes the possession, transfer or importation of an ammunition feeding device for a firearm a Class D crime. An ammunition feeding device is a device such as a magazine, belt, drum or other device that has a capacity of more than 10 rounds of ammunition. There are a few exceptions to this provision.

LD 1054
, “An Act to Prohibit Enforcement by a Federal or State Official or Others of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012” Rep. Libby of Waterboro  

This bill expresses the findings of the Legislature that the National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2012, authorizing the President of the United States to arrest, detain without charge, detain indefinitely, try under the laws of war or transfer to a foreign jurisdiction a noncitizen, violates the Constitution of the United States.

LD 1183, “An Act to Prohibit the Enforcement of Federal Law Placing Restrictions on Firearms or Ammunition” Rep. Johnson of Eddington  

This bill exempts from federal regulation firearms, firearm accessories and ammunition that are owned by residents of this State and kept exclusively in this State or that are made in this State and that remain in this State. This bill prohibits the enforcement of any federal act, law, statute, rule, regulation or order that attempts to restrict or prohibit the ownership of a semi-automatic     firearm or a magazine or that requires the registration of a firearm, a firearm accessory or ammunition. A violation is a Class C crime, punishable by a minimum of one year in prison.

LD 1240, “An Act to Promote the Safe Use and Sale of Firearms” Rep. Dion of Portland

This bill regulates the safe use and sale of firearms and addresses such issues as IFW safety courses, lists of persons prohibited of possessing firearms, increases fines for providing false information, minimum age requirements for possessing firearms, and firearms dealers. Tuesday, April 9, 2013, 1:00 pm          

LD 265, “An Act to Repeal the Restriction on Employers Regarding Firearms Kept in an Employee's Vehicle” Sen. Gerzofsky of Cumberland

This bill repeals the law that prohibits an employer from prohibiting an employee who holds a permit to carry a concealed firearm from keeping a firearm in the employee's locked vehicle.

LD 771, “An Act to Amend the Laws Governing Reciprocity for Concealed Handguns Permits”            Rep. Marks of Pittston

This bill makes concealed handguns permit issued to a nonresident invalid outside the borders of the State and prohibits a reciprocity agreement with another state to allow the issuance of a concealed handguns permit to a nonresident by the State to serve as a basis for the issuance of a concealed handguns permit in the other state.

LD 1173 “An Act to Repeal the Law Allowing Concealed Weapons in State Parks with Certain Exceptions” Sen. Gerzofsky of Cumberland

This bill repeals the law that allows a person to whom a permit to carry a concealed firearm permit has been issued, either by this State or another state, to carry a concealed firearm in the buildings or parts of buildings and other public property that are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, Division of Public Parks and Lands, including state parks and historic sites. It maintains a few exemptions in current law for certain law enforcement officials. Wednesday April 10, 2013, 1:00 pm

LD 335, “An Act to Review Firearm Laws in the State” Rep. Dickerson of Rockland             

This is a concept draft bill. This bill proposes to review all firearm laws through creation of a study group, directing a department to study or other means to determine if more could be done to protect citizens, particularly educators and children in school, from gun violence. The review should include, but not be limited to, the effectiveness of background checks and when they are or are not required; the accessibility of body armor, ammunition and other items collateral to firearm ownership; and the laws allowing possession of firearms by employees in their cars while at work and by people visiting state parks.

LD 724, “An Act to Require Firearms Used in the Commission of Certain Acts to Be Civilly Forfeited to the State and Destroyed” Rep. Dion of Portland          

This bill requires the forfeiture and destruction of a firearm used in the commission of a crime that causes death or serious bodily injury by a person who then, either due to suicide or attempted suicide or the justifiable actions of a law enforcement officer, dies or becomes incompetent to stand trial. Current law distinguishes between a firearm and a handgun for certain situations, including allowing a handgun used in a murder to be returned to the rightful owner, as long as the owner was not the person who  committed the crime. This bill removes the distinction, applying the forfeiture laws equally to all firearms.

LD 1182
, “An Act Regarding the Disposition of Firearms in State Custody” Rep. Timberlake of Turner  

This bill amends Maine law concerning the disposal of firearms and ammunition by the State and addresses such issues as the disposition of firearms and ammunition acquired by the State that are no longer needed or that are turned in; the transfer of forfeited firearms and ammunition by all law enforcement agencies to the State; and the holding firearm and ammunition auctions. Thursday, April 11, 2013, 10:00 am

LD 660, “An Act to Enhance Self-defense by Removing Restrictions on the Carrying and Use of Weapons” Rep. Libby of Waterboro 

This bill removes the prohibition on having a loaded firearm or crossbow in a motor vehicle for a person other than a holder of a concealed weapons permit; provides the exception that a person may shoot from a motor vehicle or motorboat in the defense of life or property; removes the prohibition on concealing a dangerous weapon; and removes exceptions to the law prohibiting the carrying of a concealed dangerous weapon. Thursday, April 11, 2013, 1:00 pm

LD 594
, “An Act to Prohibit Possession of a Firearm by a Person Who Has Created a Police Standoff” Rep. Chapman of Brooksville    

This bill adds to the list of persons prohibited from possessing a firearm a person who has been adjudicated as creating a police standoff.

LD 958
, “An Act to Establish a Database to Prevent Individuals Involuntarily Admitted or Committed to a Mental Health Institution from Being Issued Concealed Handgun Permits” Rep. Marks of Pittston

This bill directs the Department of Public Safety, State Bureau of Identification to establish and maintain a database of individuals admitted or committed involuntarily to a mental health institution who present a substantial threat of physical harm to themselves or to others. The database may only be used for the purpose of issuing permits to carry concealed handguns.

LD 1053
, “An Act Regarding a Retired Law Enforcement Officer Carrying a Concealed Handgun without a Permit” Rep. Black of Wilton       

This bill amends the requirements for a retired law enforcement officer to carry a concealed handgun without a permit by adding that the retired law enforcement officer must have completed the firearms basic training course at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy or equivalent training requirements and removes the requirement for training within a year of possessing the handgun. Friday, April 12, 2013, 10:00 am                

LD 188, “An Act to Criminalize Possession of a Suspended or Revoked Concealed Handgun Permit” Rep. Marks of Pittston    

This bill requires the holder of a revoked concealed handgun permit to immediately surrender that license to the issuing authority. It also prohibits a person from possessing a suspended or revoked concealed handgun permit and makes a violation a Class E crime.

LD 189, “An Act to Establish a Central Concealed Handgun Permit Database” Rep. Marks of Pittston      

This bill directs the Commissioner of Public Safety to establish an online concealed handgun permit database that is accessible by law enforcement, courts and bail commissioners for the purpose of tracking concealed handgun permits.

LD 191, “An Act to Authorize the Suspension of a Concealed Handgun Permit” Rep. Marks of Pittston    

This bill allows the issuing authority of a concealed handgun permit to suspend that permit if the issuing authority has reasonable cause to believe the permit holder's permit may be subject to revocation. It also provides the permit holder an opportunity for a hearing on the issuing authority's decision to suspend the permit.

LD 222, “An Act Designating the Chief of the State Police as the Only Issuing Authority of a Permit to Carry a Concealed Handgun” Rep. Marks of Pittston         

This bill makes the Chief of the State Police in the Department of Public Safety the sole issuing authority in the State for concealed weapons permits.

LD 223, “An Act to Amend the Laws Regarding a Concealed Handgun Permit” Rep. Marks of Pittston     

This bill changes the minimum age to obtain a permit to carry a concealed handgun from 18 years of age to 21 years of age.

LD 1022
, “An Act to Improve Training Requirements for Obtaining a Concealed Handgun Permit” Rep. Johnson of Greenville

This bill amends the training requirements to obtain a permit to carry a concealed handgun by requiring an applicant to demonstrate possession of defensive handgun skills, including the safe operating of a handgun and demonstrating firing 50 rounds of ammunition with a handgun, and a knowledge of the applicable provisions of the criminal laws of the State.

Other Upcoming Public Hearings on Gun-related Legislation

State and Local Government Committee

Monday, April 8, 2013 1:00 pm

LD 1122
, “An Act Allowing Municipalities to Enact Firearms Policies in Local Government Buildings” Rep. Moonen of Portland

This bill provides a municipal legislative body with the authority to adopt an ordinance that restricts the carrying of firearms in the municipality's essential municipal offices and places of legislative assembly just as the State imposes those restrictions in its capitol area. It requires a municipality, if the legislative body of that municipality adopts an ordinance that restricts the carrying of firearms in that municipality’s essential municipal offices or places of legislative assembly, to post in a prominent location outside the    affected offices and places a notice of the existence of that restriction.

Education and Cultural Affairs Committee

Thursday, April 18, 2013 9:00 am

LD 529, “Resolve, Directing the Department of Education to Develop Safety Standards for School Access" Rep. Harvell of Farmington

This resolve directs the Department of Education to develop safety standards for entryways in existing and new school construction and report these standards to the Joint Standing Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs by January 1, 2014.

LD 905
, “Resolve, Directing the Department of Education to Develop School Building Security Plans “Rep. Briggs of Mexico

This resolve directs the Department of Education to develop a plan that makes recommendations to school administrative units for security measures that can be taken to improve the security of school buildings and instructional information that can be given to administrators, teachers, students, parents and community leaders concerning proper procedures and measures to take in response to and preparation for an emergency or natural disaster.


There will be public hearings all week, beginning Monday, on more than two dozen bills related to guns.

Gun control proponents are hoping that public outrage over the shooting of 20 children and six educators at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., last December will translate into political momentum.

"The Newtown shooting was a game changer," said Bill Harwood, founder of Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence.

Although the Legislature historically has been a hostile place for even modest gun control measures, Harwood points to recent polls that indicate the public favors some changes.

In an independent poll released last week by Pan Atlantic SMS Group, nearly 90 percent of the registered Maine voters surveyed said they favor background checks for all gun purchases, and 65.5 percent favored a ban on ammunition clips that hold 10 or more bullets.

A poll conducted in January for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram found that although Mainers are more likely to own guns than most Americans, they're also more supportive of increasing restrictions, such as banning semiautomatic rifles and high-capacity magazines.

Public support for gun control in Maine may be broad, but don't expect the Legislature to approve the kind of sweeping gun control measures that have passed in recent months in more urban states, such as Connecticut and New York, say political observers.

Gun rights activists have been successful in Maine because they are more passionate, better organized and better informed about how to influence the political processes, said Patrick Murphy, president of Pan Atlantic SMS Group.

"Legislators are very wary of any of these gun control measures because they worry about being put out of office," he said.

In Maine, a lawmaker's stance on gun control is often a determining factor for how gun rights supporters vote in local races, said Douglas Hodgkin, a retired political science professor from Bates College in Lewiston.

In contrast, gun control supporters won't punish lawmakers for voting the wrong way on the issue because other issues are more important to them, he said.

Gun rights activists will turn out in large numbers at the public hearings this week and will probably outnumber gun control supporters, said David Trahan, executive director of the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine. He said many sportsmen worry that the proposals go too far.

"Most people support common-sense regulations," he said. "But some of the (proposed) laws come pretty close to stamping out individual freedoms."

Lawmakers are already feeling the pressure from gun rights activists.

Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland, co-chairman of the Legislature's Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, said he has been inundated with emails in support of L.D. 660. Sponsored by Rep. Aaron Libby, R-Waterboro, the "constitutional carry" bill would allow any Maine gun owner to carry a concealed weapon without a permit.

The public hearing for that bill is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday in Augusta before the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

The committee will be holding hearings on gun control bills on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence is focusing its attention on passing two bills, L.D. 997, sponsored by Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland, and L.D. 1240, sponsored by Dion. The committee will hold public hearings on these bills at 10 a.m. Monday.

Alfond's bill would ban magazines that carry more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

Dion's bill is a comprehensive package that would allow police to take away guns from people who have been admitted to a psychiatric hospital on an emergency basis, increase the minimum age to obtain a concealed handgun permit from 18 to 21, require background checks for all gun sales except between family members, and require gun buyers to show evidence they have completed a firearm safety course.

The Legislature's Education and Cultural Affairs Committee will hold public hearings Thursday on two bills related to improving school security procedures and safety standards for school construction.

The Legislature's State and Local Government Committee will hold a public hearing at 1 p.m. Monday on L.D. 1122, a bill sponsored by Rep. Matthew Moonen, D-Portland, that would allow cities and towns to prohibit guns in municipal offices and places of assembly.

Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:




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Today's poll: Gun control

Should the Maine Legislature pass more gun control laws?



View Results