February 8, 2013

Maine panel discusses constitutionality of gun controls

Would universal background checks infringe on the right to privacy, one member asks?


FARMINGTON – Maine leaders in the debate on gun control gathered to discuss whether there can be meaningful gun control laws that still protect constitutional rights Monday evening at the University of Maine at Farmington.

Panelists debated which studies on gun control were valid whether video games lead to gun violence and whether universal background checks would lead to an invasion of privacy.

While the gun control debate has become heated throughout much of country, the panelists calmly debated their points of view and at the beginning of the event told the 100-person crowd of students and community members that they wanted to have meaningful, intelligent public discussion.

The six panelists included Ethan Strimling, a former state senator who sponsored bills to enhance gun safety; David Trahan, executive director of the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine; Barry Sturk, a firearms dealer and state lobbyist; J. Thomas Franklin, president of Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence; Rep. Lance Harvell, R-Farmington, a hunter; and Dr. Art Dingely, a psychiatrist, hunter and former National Rifle Association member.

Franklin said that while statistics can prove almost any argument, there is ample evidence that gun controls work.

"There are four long-term studies showing restricted access to guns reduces gun violence. Those studies are called Canada, England, Australia and New Zealand," he said. "Australians are even proud of being descendants of convicts, for God's sake, but you don't see them having high gun violence rates."

Harvell said he thinks violent video games, the breakdown of the family unit and drug use contribute to gun violence.

"I think with these factors you're asking for some real problems, and I think you're seeing it," he said.

Harvell said he is concerned that people who don't understand guns are pushing gun control laws that will affect areas such as Maine, where there are many hunters who know how to safely handle firearms.

Strimling said while video games or family problems may contribute to gun violence, people must acknowledge that guns have been the weapon of choice in recent mass killings.

He said he thinks there should be more controls, especially background checks. He said he has yet to hear anyone explain the negative side of increased background checks.

Trahan said while his group has taken no formal stand on universal background checks, he thinks people should consider whether they would lead to an invasion of privacy by the government.

"Do we as a society want every firearm holder known by the federal government? There is a risk to that if there is ever an attempt to collect those firearms," he said.


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