November 18, 2012

Bill Nemitz: With anger holstered, gun debate can be productive

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"So that's what we can do when we respect each other, talk to each other, put aside the rhetoric and focus on the important things," Smith said. "We can't be afraid of or opposed to working together. We have to respect you and you must respect us."

Fair enough. But their disagreements -- and they are many -- remain.

During an extended question-and-answer session, MCAHV members questioned why semi-automatic assault weapons have to be used in hunting, why high-capacity magazines have to carry 50 rounds or more of ammunition, why all gun shows can't be required to perform background checks on all buyers and why open-carry laws are so sacrosanct in Maine and other states.

More than once, Smith admitted he didn't have all the answers to such concerns. But he did offer one big piece of advice.

"You need to stop fighting the NRA," he said. "That's a battle you can't win."

Rather, he said, MCAHV should focus its efforts on more achievable, voluntary goals -- not unlike its past success in encouraging gun owners to keep their weapons locked when not in use and store them far away from any ammunition.

"I got some trigger locks when you distributed them," Smith noted. "That was a great initiative on your part."

Where this all goes from here remains to be seen. Most of Maine's recent legislative activity around guns -- allowing employees to keep weapons in their cars while at work, for example -- hasn't given MCAHV much to cheer about.

That said, Harwood noted after Smith's hour-long presentation, the impending shift in the Legislature from Republican to Democratic control "has clearly been a move in our direction."

"But we don't want to overplay our hand," Harwood added. "As George said tonight, this is an incremental fight and we've got to take small steps."

As for Smith, he was glad he made the trip -- and that he left his hardware at home.

"After almost 50 years of involvement in Maine politics, I am no longer interested in wasting time on foolish and frivolous arguments and political theater," he told his unlikely audience. "Perhaps we can accept our differences of opinion and find issues and projects on which we can cooperate and collaborate."

Leave it to George Smith to identify a worthy target.

Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:


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