YARMOUTH — The Town Council is scheduled to vote Thursday on a proposal to collect guns from residents who want to give them up.

Under the resolve, the town would designate a day that residents can turn in unwanted firearms and ammunition to the Police Department, voluntarily and without compensation.

Drafted by Councilor Tim Shannon, the firearms resolve would direct Town Manager Nat Tupper to spend as much as $2,000 from budgeted but unused public safety funds to advertise and promote the gun collection day. Guns that are turned in would be safely destroyed.

Police Chief Michael Morrill said he would like the day to not be scheduled before May.

“We’re pretty short-handed right now and it’s going to take some time to get it organized,” he said, adding that the police department, like others in Maine, already accepts unwanted guns or ammunition at any time. He said the department accepted six to 10 firearms in the past year without any formal collection event.

Two handguns were turned into the police department last week along with a rifle found in a dumpster, he said.

“There does seem to be some population of unwanted guns in this town,” Shannon said. “That gives me great concern.”

Similar gun collection events have been organized before in Maine, including after the Sandy Hook Elementary school shootings in December 2012. While police say unwanted guns can fall into the wrong hands and become a public safety risk, the collections are sometimes criticized as politically motivated attempts to promote gun control.

Some Maine police departments, including Yarmouth’s, set up a joint collection event in 2013 in which the collected guns were sold to a dealer to raise money for charity rather than having the guns destroyed and generating criticism from people who don’t want the government limiting access to firearms.

Councilors Jim MacLeod and Robert Waeldner opposed the new proposal in Yarmouth during a meeting last week. MacLeod called it a “slippery slope” and “divisive.”

“I don’t think it’s something government should do,” he added.

Waeldner said he was “OK” with promoting the existing program, where the Police Department accepts unwanted guns or ammunition, but thinks a formal give-back day wouldn’t be as effective as a grassroots effort.

They were out-voted by Chairwoman Pat Thompson and Councilors David Craig, April Humphrey, Richard Plourde and Shannon.

Craig said he “wholeheartedly” supports the resolve, but doesn’t think it goes far enough.

“I think there should be a buy-back, but I know that won’t fly,” he said. “It blows my mind … some of the comments made up here for how limited government should be.”

A “Recognition” section of the resolve proposes that, if they choose, residents who give back their guns or ammunition could be recognized by having the flags on the Memorial Green at Town Hall lowered to half-staff “in their honor or in recognition of a loved one or others killed by gun violence in America.”

Plourde, Thompson and some residents said they would rather see the resolve without the Recognition section.

Further discussion was expected before the vote on Thursday. The council meets at 7 p.m. at the Log Cabin, 196 Main St.

“Public safety is one of the core functions of our town government,” Humphrey said. “… I view this as a vital role of government at all levels, but specifically at a local level.”

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

Read this story in The Forecaster.

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