December 18, 2012

In Maine, laws to restrict guns usually prove to be hard sell

Nonetheless, Maine lawmakers expect a wave of gun control bills in response to the Connecticut shootings that claimed 26 lives, including 20 young children.

By Steve Mistler
Staff Writer

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Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence has spent more lobbying state lawmakers than the NRA has since 2002, $43,799 to $29,125. The Sportsman's Alliance of Maine has spent $110,039 over the same period.

It's not clear whether Maine lawmakers have made a political calculation to acquiesce to the pro-gun lobby. What is clear is that stricter gun-control bills have not gone very far in Maine, with either party in control.

In 2009, the Democratic-led Legislature rejected a bill that would have forced sellers at gun shows to do background checks on buyers before selling them firearms. The bill died in committee without a vote in the House or the Senate.

Other bills, such as requiring dealers to provide trigger locks on handguns and banning assault weapons, have been defeated.

Rep. Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport, the House Republican leader, said Maine's gun laws reflect the values of its residents. He said it is appropriate to have a discussion about what caused the tragedy in Connecticut, but the dialogue shouldn't begin and end with taking guns from law-abiding citizens.

Sen. Anne Haskell, D-Portland, said she expects that lawmakers will see a host of gun control bills in this session. And Haskell, a gun owner and hunter who has a concealed-weapons permit, said the proposals will go beyond an emotional response to the killings.

"I don't want people to end up with a false sense of security," she said. "I don't think there's an easy solution until we can understand what drives somebody to go to a school, deliberately target children. It surpasses any kind of understanding."

David Trahan, executive director of the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine, said his group would give thoughtful consideration to any proposal.

The alliance already partners with gun control groups to promote voluntary background checks and gun safety education.

However, Trahan said, lawmakers should be wary of people seizing on tragic events to advance laws that infringe on citizens' Second Amendment rights.

Staff Writer Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at:


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