December 15, 2012

Maine and nation must curb guns, advocates argue

But those who favor few restrictions say solutions should focus on the people who are driven to violence.

By Matt Byrne mbyrne@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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A mother hugs her daughter following a shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., about 60 miles (96 kilometers) northeast of New York City, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. An official with knowledge of Friday's shooting said 27 people were dead, including 18 children. It was the worst school shooting in the country's history. (AP Photo/The New Haven Register, Melanie Stengel)

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"People who want to commit these crimes, they're going to get access (to guns) no matter what," Trahan said.

But anti-violence advocates say Trahan's approach can be dangerous.

Ethan Strimling, who represented Portland in the state Senate from 2002 to 2008 and led an effort in 2005 to extend the ban on assault weapons in Maine, said easy access to deadly weapons is a common denominator in mass tragedies.

His effort was defeated, with opposition from the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine and the National Rifle Association.

Gun-rights groups lobbied legislators and packed a hearing with opponents of the bill, Strimling said.

In Maine, "there is a long gun history so I think they already have a tilt in this state," said Strimling. "But I think Maine people are willing to enact sensible gun policy."

Strimling said an issue like gun violence don't resonate until it affects people personally.

Cathie Whittenburg, a spokeswoman for States United Against Gun Violence, lamented the reluctance among politicians in Augusta to seriously consider new legislation, and blamed the lobbying power of the NRA.

The association's leadership represents an extreme view of gun rights and does not reflect the views of the NRA's nearly 4 million members, Whittenburg said.

She pointed to a poll of 945 gun owners sponsored this year by the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which found that most who responded supported tougher background checks for all firearm purchasers, checks on employees of gun stores, and stricter limits on concealed-carry permits.

The NRA did not respond to a request for comment.

Staff Writer Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:


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