Politics

January 14, 2013

In Portland, a call to arms on gun limits

City, school and police leaders in Portland add their voices as a national group mobilizes local communities to join the debate.

By Matt Byrne mbyrne@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Mayor Michael Brennan holds a press conference at Portland City Hall on Monday, the one-month anniversary of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Brennan proposed three ideas that he said would help curb gun violence: Require criminal background checks for all gun sales, banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and to make gun trafficking a federal crime.

Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Jeff Weinstein, president of the Maine Gun Owners Association, talks with reporters after a press conference at Portland City Hall on Monday, January 14, 2012 where Mayor Michael Brennan called for controls to curb gun violence.

Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer

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"Essentially, you have to balance the gun rights against some means of being sure that only appropriate people get and use firearms," he said.

Weinstein reiterated his position on arming teachers, and said that he believed some officials at the presentation Monday hope to use a ban on assault weapons as a stepping stone to outlawing handguns. "They're using the semiautomatic rifle as just another means of drawing attention to their cause," he said.

The notion of arming teachers was dismissed by Emmanuel Caulk, Portland school superintendent, who said Monday that teachers are hired to focus on instructing students -- not shooting at threatening intruders. "They (teachers) should not be expected to act as armed guards to serve as judge, jury and executioner," Caulk said.

As Caulk and other city leaders push for regulations, school superintendents and educators across the state continue to react to the Newtown shootings by re-examining safety plans.

David Connerty-Marin, a spokesman for Maine Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen, said an inter-agency group charged with evaluating school safety procedures has not yet made any recommendations. A preliminary report is due in about a month.

In Yarmouth, a previously scheduled audit of the district's safety procedures garnered increased attention from parents.

In Freeport, a community group sponsored by state Rep. Sara Gideon will hold a public forum and panel discussion later this month on guns, mental health and the American culture of violence.

A recent proposal to redesign the Freeport High School campus includes a revamped main entrance with a locked inner door that would allow staff to see who is attempting to enter the building before they're inside.

In South Portland, the superintendent was scheduled to discuss districtwide safety plans at a school board meeting Monday.

And in Cumberland and North Yarmouth schools, officials on Tuesday plan to unveil a host of changes to school security in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings.

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

mbyrne@mainetoday.com

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