May 3, 2013

Panelists clash at WGME-TV guns forum

About 60 people gather at the station's Portland studio to debate gun control and share stories.

By Dennis Hoey dhoey@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND – The person who killed Judi and Wayne Richardson's daughter more than three years ago still has not been caught, in part because the gun that was used to shoot Darien Richardson was bought at a gun show and the buyer did not get a background check.

Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said the same handgun was used about a month later to fatally shoot a man.

"The person who killed my daughter is still at large," Judi Richardson said Thursday night during a town hall-style forum on gun control.

"This is one example where a background check failed and ended in the deaths of two people."

About 60 people gathered at WGME-TV's Portland studio to debate gun control and share their stories. The forum was moderated by Mark Hyman, a commentator for WGME's parent company, Sinclair Broadcast Group.

Hyman later described the 90-minute forum as "passionate and spirited," with panelists such as Sauschuck and audience members weighing in on gun control.

The forum touched on the mass shooting in December at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on the influence that violence in pop culture and video games has had on our society, on background checks for gun purchases, and on arming teachers.

Richardson's daughter, Darien, was a 25-year-old Bowdoin College graduate working at an insurance agency when masked intruders burst into her apartment on Jan. 8, 2010. She was shot in the leg and died 51 days later from a blood clot caused by her wound.

"You are basically talking about violent behavior," said Jeff Weinstein of the Maine Gun Owners Association, a panelist for the forum. "The gun wasn't the partner in the shooting, or the cause."

"The problem, in my opinion, is the person who did it, not the gun," said another panelist, Stavros Mendros of the Maine Gun Rights Coalition.

But Sauschuck and another panelist, state Sen. Anne Haskell, D-Portland, said it is time to make background checks mandatory before a gun can be sold.

They said it can prevent weapons from falling into the hands of violent criminals. Haskell said she has a gun and a concealed-weapons permit.

"In this society, you are innocent until proven guilty. Background checks fly in the face of that," Mendros said.

Weinstein and Mendros suggested that government is trying to erode constitutional freedoms, especially the right to bear arms.

"What I can tell us is that 12,000 people a year are murdered in this country with firearms," Sauschuck said. He said background checks might have prevented some of those deaths.

"It's a great scare tactic," Mendros replied. "It has been the government's strategy to disarm the people so you can control them."

In response to a question about the influence that violent movies and video games have on society, Mendros said, "People are responsible for their actions. It's not a video game or a song they heard on the radio."

Haskell said the Legislature has considered multiple gun control bills in this session, but "a lot of them have died."

Thursday's forum will be broadcast on WGME, Channel 13, from noon to 1 p.m. Sunday. It will also be available to watch at www.wgme.com.

 

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

dhoey@pressherald.com

 

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