April 9, 2013

Self-defense, public safety argued during gun hearings

Witnesses debate the merits of some of the 20-plus weapons-related bills before lawmakers.

By Michael Shepherd mshepherd@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

AUGUSTA — A legislative committee heard testimony from morning to night Monday on some of the 20-plus gun bills that will have public hearings in the Legislature this week.

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Tim Grimmel of Sabuttus testifies against a bill that would restrict the size of ammunition clips Monday April 8, 2013 at the State House in Augusta.

Staff photo by Andy Mallow

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Donald Loncto, of Fletchers Landing Township, testifies against legislation to restrict the size of ammunition clips Monday at the State House in Augusta.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

Firearm and Ammunition Legislation Introduced to the 126th Legislature

Criminal Justice and Public Safety Public Hearing Schedule

Full text of the following bills may be found at http://www.mainelegislature.org/LawMakerWeb/advancedsearch.asp

Monday, April 8, 2013, 10 a.m.

LD 267, “An Act Regarding the Sale of Firearms at Gun Shows” Sen. Gerzofsky of Cumberland

This bill requires that a national instant criminal background check be performed prior to the sale or transfer of a firearm at a gun show. The bill makes a gun show operator responsible for any failure to perform a required background check and subject to a fine of up to $10,000 for each such failure.

LD 380, “An Act to Clarify the Law Concerning the Threatening Display of Dangerous Weapons” Rep. Gattine of Westbrook

This bill amends the law regarding threatening display or carrying of a dangerous weapon by clarifying that "display in a threatening manner" includes to display a dangerous or deadly weapon in a public place in a way that causes a reasonable person to suffer intimidation or alarm.

LD 997
, “An Act to Establish Restrictions on Ammunition Feeding Devices” Pres. Alfond of Cumberland

This bill makes the possession, transfer or importation of an ammunition feeding device for a firearm a Class D crime. An ammunition feeding device is a device such as a magazine, belt, drum or other device that has a capacity of more than 10 rounds of ammunition. There are a few exceptions to this provision.

LD 1054
, “An Act to Prohibit Enforcement by a Federal or State Official or Others of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012” Rep. Libby of Waterboro  

This bill expresses the findings of the Legislature that the National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2012, authorizing the President of the United States to arrest, detain without charge, detain indefinitely, try under the laws of war or transfer to a foreign jurisdiction a noncitizen, violates the Constitution of the United States.

LD 1183, “An Act to Prohibit the Enforcement of Federal Law Placing Restrictions on Firearms or Ammunition” Rep. Johnson of Eddington  

This bill exempts from federal regulation firearms, firearm accessories and ammunition that are owned by residents of this State and kept exclusively in this State or that are made in this State and that remain in this State. This bill prohibits the enforcement of any federal act, law, statute, rule, regulation or order that attempts to restrict or prohibit the ownership of a semi-automatic     firearm or a magazine or that requires the registration of a firearm, a firearm accessory or ammunition. A violation is a Class C crime, punishable by a minimum of one year in prison.

LD 1240, “An Act to Promote the Safe Use and Sale of Firearms” Rep. Dion of Portland

This bill regulates the safe use and sale of firearms and addresses such issues as IFW safety courses, lists of persons prohibited of possessing firearms, increases fines for providing false information, minimum age requirements for possessing firearms, and firearms dealers. Tuesday, April 9, 2013, 1:00 pm          

LD 265, “An Act to Repeal the Restriction on Employers Regarding Firearms Kept in an Employee's Vehicle” Sen. Gerzofsky of Cumberland

This bill repeals the law that prohibits an employer from prohibiting an employee who holds a permit to carry a concealed firearm from keeping a firearm in the employee's locked vehicle.

LD 771, “An Act to Amend the Laws Governing Reciprocity for Concealed Handguns Permits”            Rep. Marks of Pittston

This bill makes concealed handguns permit issued to a nonresident invalid outside the borders of the State and prohibits a reciprocity agreement with another state to allow the issuance of a concealed handguns permit to a nonresident by the State to serve as a basis for the issuance of a concealed handguns permit in the other state.

LD 1173 “An Act to Repeal the Law Allowing Concealed Weapons in State Parks with Certain Exceptions” Sen. Gerzofsky of Cumberland

This bill repeals the law that allows a person to whom a permit to carry a concealed firearm permit has been issued, either by this State or another state, to carry a concealed firearm in the buildings or parts of buildings and other public property that are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, Division of Public Parks and Lands, including state parks and historic sites. It maintains a few exemptions in current law for certain law enforcement officials. Wednesday April 10, 2013, 1:00 pm

LD 335, “An Act to Review Firearm Laws in the State” Rep. Dickerson of Rockland             

This is a concept draft bill. This bill proposes to review all firearm laws through creation of a study group, directing a department to study or other means to determine if more could be done to protect citizens, particularly educators and children in school, from gun violence. The review should include, but not be limited to, the effectiveness of background checks and when they are or are not required; the accessibility of body armor, ammunition and other items collateral to firearm ownership; and the laws allowing possession of firearms by employees in their cars while at work and by people visiting state parks.

LD 724, “An Act to Require Firearms Used in the Commission of Certain Acts to Be Civilly Forfeited to the State and Destroyed” Rep. Dion of Portland          

This bill requires the forfeiture and destruction of a firearm used in the commission of a crime that causes death or serious bodily injury by a person who then, either due to suicide or attempted suicide or the justifiable actions of a law enforcement officer, dies or becomes incompetent to stand trial. Current law distinguishes between a firearm and a handgun for certain situations, including allowing a handgun used in a murder to be returned to the rightful owner, as long as the owner was not the person who  committed the crime. This bill removes the distinction, applying the forfeiture laws equally to all firearms.

LD 1182
, “An Act Regarding the Disposition of Firearms in State Custody” Rep. Timberlake of Turner  

This bill amends Maine law concerning the disposal of firearms and ammunition by the State and addresses such issues as the disposition of firearms and ammunition acquired by the State that are no longer needed or that are turned in; the transfer of forfeited firearms and ammunition by all law enforcement agencies to the State; and the holding firearm and ammunition auctions. Thursday, April 11, 2013, 10:00 am

LD 660, “An Act to Enhance Self-defense by Removing Restrictions on the Carrying and Use of Weapons” Rep. Libby of Waterboro 

This bill removes the prohibition on having a loaded firearm or crossbow in a motor vehicle for a person other than a holder of a concealed weapons permit; provides the exception that a person may shoot from a motor vehicle or motorboat in the defense of life or property; removes the prohibition on concealing a dangerous weapon; and removes exceptions to the law prohibiting the carrying of a concealed dangerous weapon. Thursday, April 11, 2013, 1:00 pm

LD 594
, “An Act to Prohibit Possession of a Firearm by a Person Who Has Created a Police Standoff” Rep. Chapman of Brooksville    

This bill adds to the list of persons prohibited from possessing a firearm a person who has been adjudicated as creating a police standoff.

LD 958
, “An Act to Establish a Database to Prevent Individuals Involuntarily Admitted or Committed to a Mental Health Institution from Being Issued Concealed Handgun Permits” Rep. Marks of Pittston

This bill directs the Department of Public Safety, State Bureau of Identification to establish and maintain a database of individuals admitted or committed involuntarily to a mental health institution who present a substantial threat of physical harm to themselves or to others. The database may only be used for the purpose of issuing permits to carry concealed handguns.

LD 1053
, “An Act Regarding a Retired Law Enforcement Officer Carrying a Concealed Handgun without a Permit” Rep. Black of Wilton       

This bill amends the requirements for a retired law enforcement officer to carry a concealed handgun without a permit by adding that the retired law enforcement officer must have completed the firearms basic training course at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy or equivalent training requirements and removes the requirement for training within a year of possessing the handgun. Friday, April 12, 2013, 10:00 am                

LD 188, “An Act to Criminalize Possession of a Suspended or Revoked Concealed Handgun Permit” Rep. Marks of Pittston    

This bill requires the holder of a revoked concealed handgun permit to immediately surrender that license to the issuing authority. It also prohibits a person from possessing a suspended or revoked concealed handgun permit and makes a violation a Class E crime.

LD 189, “An Act to Establish a Central Concealed Handgun Permit Database” Rep. Marks of Pittston      

This bill directs the Commissioner of Public Safety to establish an online concealed handgun permit database that is accessible by law enforcement, courts and bail commissioners for the purpose of tracking concealed handgun permits.

LD 191, “An Act to Authorize the Suspension of a Concealed Handgun Permit” Rep. Marks of Pittston    

This bill allows the issuing authority of a concealed handgun permit to suspend that permit if the issuing authority has reasonable cause to believe the permit holder's permit may be subject to revocation. It also provides the permit holder an opportunity for a hearing on the issuing authority's decision to suspend the permit.

LD 222, “An Act Designating the Chief of the State Police as the Only Issuing Authority of a Permit to Carry a Concealed Handgun” Rep. Marks of Pittston         

This bill makes the Chief of the State Police in the Department of Public Safety the sole issuing authority in the State for concealed weapons permits.

LD 223, “An Act to Amend the Laws Regarding a Concealed Handgun Permit” Rep. Marks of Pittston     

This bill changes the minimum age to obtain a permit to carry a concealed handgun from 18 years of age to 21 years of age.

LD 1022
, “An Act to Improve Training Requirements for Obtaining a Concealed Handgun Permit” Rep. Johnson of Greenville

This bill amends the training requirements to obtain a permit to carry a concealed handgun by requiring an applicant to demonstrate possession of defensive handgun skills, including the safe operating of a handgun and demonstrating firing 50 rounds of ammunition with a handgun, and a knowledge of the applicable provisions of the criminal laws of the State.

Other Upcoming Public Hearings on Gun-related Legislation

State and Local Government Committee

Monday, April 8, 2013, 1 pm

LD 1122
, “An Act Allowing Municipalities to Enact Firearms Policies in Local Government Buildings” Rep. Moonen of Portland

This bill provides a municipal legislative body with the authority to adopt an ordinance that restricts the carrying of firearms in the municipality's essential municipal offices and places of legislative assembly just as the State imposes those restrictions in its capitol area. It requires a municipality, if the legislative body of that municipality adopts an ordinance that restricts the carrying of firearms in that municipality’s essential municipal offices or places of legislative assembly, to post in a prominent location outside the    affected offices and places a notice of the existence of that restriction.

Education and Cultural Affairs Committee

Thursday, April 18, 2013, 9 a.m.

LD 529, “Resolve, Directing the Department of Education to Develop Safety Standards for School Access" Rep. Harvell of Farmington

This resolve directs the Department of Education to develop safety standards for entryways in existing and new school construction and report these standards to the Joint Standing Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs by January 1, 2014.

LD 905
, “Resolve, Directing the Department of Education to Develop School Building Security Plans “Rep. Briggs of Mexico

This resolve directs the Department of Education to develop a plan that makes recommendations to school administrative units for security measures that can be taken to improve the security of school buildings and instructional information that can be given to administrators, teachers, students, parents and community leaders concerning proper procedures and measures to take in response to and preparation for an emergency or natural disaster.


Gun control proposals drew hundreds of gun rights advocates to testify in opposition.

Among the proposals is a bill sponsored by Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland, that would limit gun magazines to 10 rounds, a key goal of President Obama in the federal gun control debate.

Other proposals heard Monday would:

Require firearm dealers to prove completion of a firearms safety course.

Require any gun buyer to show a current hunting license or concealed-handgun permit.

Mandate background checks before private and gun show sales.

Raise the minimum age to get a concealed-handgun permit from 18 to 21.

The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee also heard a proposal that would outlaw enforcement of federal gun control measures in Maine.

Alfond's bill, which generated the most testimony, would criminalize possession, importation and transfer of high-capacity magazines for nearly everyone in Maine. The bill would exempt law enforcement officers and owners of any devices already possessed legally. Maine now has no limit on magazine sizes.

"This bill is only one part of the solution," Alfond testified. "I have no illusions that restricting access to these high-capacity magazines in and of itself will stop the next massacre, but it could reduce the number of lives lost."

Public safety, medical and church groups supported Alfond's bill, which he said is a response to the Dec. 14 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that killed 26 students and teachers.

"When individuals are changing magazines ... they're fumbling as they're in the middle of these tragedies they're creating," said Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck. "Bystanders take that opportunity to intervene; law enforcement uses those opportunities to intervene, and victims ... use these opportunities to ... escape."

Testimony from gun rights advocates on Alfond's bill centered around self-defense.

The National Rifle Association is the most notable opponent. In written testimony, NRA Maine's state liaison, John Howenwarter, said, "A magazine ban will not affect criminals, it will undermine the ability of an individual to effectively defend themselves."

Blaine Richardson of Belfast, who announced Monday that he will run for Congress in 2014 after an unsuccessful run last year, said Maine and the nation have turned their backs on the mentally ill, and that is the reason for mass shootings.

"We have these very God-given rights so that we can personally protect ourselves," he said. "The problem is, we have groups of people in this country who are not doing their job, and the mental health group is one of them."

Craig Daigle, who owns C&R Trading Post in Brunswick, said he is troubled by the provision of Alfond's bill that would prohibit the transfer of high-capacity magazines, because it would make some guns that Mainers already own impossible to sell. He said he bought a gun 18 years ago as an investment.

"It's invested for my child's college because, guess what, it's tripled in value since I got it," he said. "It's papered, completely legal and, according to this, it won't be."

The other gun control bills heard Monday included proposals by the committee co-chairs, Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland, and Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick.

Dion's proposal, perhaps the most ambitious gun control bill presented Monday, would mandate permitting before gun purchases, require background checks before private sales, and raise the minimum age for concealed-handgun permit holders.

(Continued on page 2)

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Today's poll: Gun control

Should the Maine Legislature pass more gun control laws?



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