Three members of Maine’s congressional delegation have been at the forefront of efforts to enact some kind of gun control legislation, but the fourth, Rep. Bruce Poliquin, has been keeping a low profile.

Poliquin’s office issued news releases this week on issues such as sea urchin harvesting and opiate addiction, but none regarding the debate over restricting some gun purchases that gripped the House and Senate. Poliquin’s office did provide a written comment on the issue in response to requests from the Portland Press Herald, but he would not answer questions and he did not take a firm position on any of the bills aimed at keeping firearms out of the hands of potential terrorists.

“It’s a tricky issue for Poliquin,” said James Melcher, a political science professor at the University of Maine Farmington. Melcher cited Poliquin’s re-election bid and the political support for gun rights in Maine’s more rural 2nd Congressional District, which he represents.

The debate over gun control was thrust back into the national spotlight after a gunman opened fire in a gay nightclub in Orlando on June 12, killing 49 people. The gunman, Omar Mateen, had previously been investigated by the FBI for suspected ties to terrorism. Mateen, 29, described himself as an “Islamic soldier” in a 911 call he made inside the Pulse nightclub. He was shot dead by police.

The incident highlighted what some describe as a loophole in gun laws that allows people who are on the FBI’s “no-fly” and “selectee” lists to legally purchase firearms. Being on the selectee list requires an individual to go through additional screening before a determination is made about whether that person can fly.


Three of Maine’s members of Congress have publicly pushed for legislation to keep guns away from people on those lists.

Rep. Chellie Pingree, who represents Maine’s 1st District, joined other Democrats for a 25-hour sit-in on the House floor to pressure Republican leaders to allow debate on several bills that would make it more difficult to purchase weapons.

Pingree held a news conference Friday in Portland to say she planned to continue the fight.

Sen. Susan Collins has been working with fellow Republicans and with Democrats in the Senate to build support for a bipartisan bill that would prohibit suspected terrorists from purchasing firearms.

While Collins’ bill appears to lack the votes needed to win Senate approval, her office issued a news release Friday saying it has the support of former military and intelligence leaders, including retired Gen. David Petraeus, who led U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and directed the CIA.

The bipartisan Senate effort is being backed by Sen. Angus King of Maine. An independent who caucuses with Democrats, he joined Collins at a Capitol Hill news conference and made a speech on the Senate floor calling the bill “about as simple and common sense as it gets.”

Poliquin, a Republican, has kept a low profile on the gun issue that stands in stark contrast to the other Maine lawmakers.

The Portland Press Herald requested an interview with Poliquin to discuss his position, but his press secretary would only provide a written statement from the congressman and did not respond to follow-up questions.

“There have been proposals to limit the immediate purchase of firearms by anyone that has been the subject of a terrorist investigation. Some proposals immediately notify the FBI that a person who has been the subject of a terrorist investigation is attempting to purchase a firearm,” he said. “Properly implemented, these may have stopped the killer in Orlando. Taken with meaningful due process protections, these proposals could be a step in the right direction as long as constitutional provisions remain intact.”

His statement also emphasized the right of Americans to buy guns.

“What separates our nation from others, including totalitarian regimes and regions that have been ruled by groups like the Taliban, is that we have a Constitution which protects liberties and our way of life,” he said. “I want to make sure that any proposed law does not do anything to harm citizens’ rights and the principles that make our country what it is. The 2nd Amendment is one of those rights.”


Poliquin is running for re-election against Democrat Emily Cain, and has staked out a reputation for protecting gun ownership rights.

In 2014, Poliquin had a 79 percent rating from the National Rifle Association, according to Vote Smart, and received a $4,950 donation from the powerful gun-rights group, according to the Center for Responsible Politics.

By comparison, the NRA last ranked Collins in 2008 and gave her a 50 percent rating, according to Vote Smart.

While Maine’s 1st District, covering southern and coastal Maine, is pro-gun control, the 2nd District is more difficult to read on the issue, Melcher said.

“This isn’t an issue he made particularly visible and maybe that’s because he doesn’t want to supply Emily Cain with quotes that she can use in her national fundraising,” Melcher said.

Cain issued a statement Tuesday saying she supports the so-called “no fly, no buy” bill being advanced by Collins, while the Maine Democratic Party issued a statement Wednesday criticizing Poliquin for not stating his position.

Meanwhile, Pingree said Friday that she hopes to keep up the pressure on the Republican leadership in the House to debate gun-control legislation when Congress reconvenes after the July Fourth break.

“It’s kind of nutty to think that members of the House of Representatives have to sit down on the floor of the House and say, ‘We’re not going away until you do something,’ ” Pingree said at a news conference outside her office on the Portland waterfront. “But the rules of the House are very constraining. We can’t bring a bill to the floor. We can’t take it up in committee. And we feel like the Republicans aren’t even listening to their own members.”

Although Democrats, led by civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, vowed to occupy the House floor until Republicans moved a bill, they ended their demonstration after Republican leadership adjourned the House for the July Fourth break.

Republicans shut off the cameras in the House gallery throughout most of the protest, but Democrats used their cellphones to capture the action. In an unprecedented move, C-SPAN carried the feeds live via Periscope and Facebook.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, dismissed the sit-in as a “political stunt,” noting that the Democratic National Committee was attempting to raise money off the protest.

Pingree said Friday that she is open to any bill that would make purchasing firearms more difficult, especially for suspected terrorists.

Collins’ bill passed a procedural vote in the Senate by a 52-46 vote, but may not have enough support to go further, since 60 votes would be needed to overcome a filibuster.

Randy Billings can be reached at 791-6346 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: randybillings

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